Deafness poses the risk of escalating into severe mental health issues. The social and practical problems of living in a world of sign language imperatively develops a sense of sub-culture isolation. In fact, this sense of deep isolation is one of the key reasons why there is a serious lack of extensive research on the subject.
A critical issue
- Acknowledgment in momentum
Conventional counseling is often ineffective because of the communication barrier. There had not been sufficient attention to this major issue until the end of the 20th century. Fortunately, however, since around 1999 there have been several studies and researches expressing the voices of the deaf. Researches reveal that many people with acute deafness experience severe issues with cultural, emotional, and cognitive development.
- Generating awareness
One of the earliest studies was in Norway. Two separate postal surveys confirmed that a significant number of deaf adults suffered from increased mental health issues compared to hearing people (1995-2001). Both groups received a set of questions derived from the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist, and experts analyzed three common questions in either group.
- A widespread problem
The research was one of the first attempts to generate awareness on mental health issues in the hearing impaired. Data indicates that about 15-26% of global population are deaf. In this segment, about seven in 10,000 people deal with acute deafness, where the condition developed even before the onset of childhood language training. Studies also show that about a quarter of the deaf population maintain a constant struggle against severe depression.
Governed by law
The National Association of the Deaf outlines the following legal rights of the community.
- Seeking referral for a qualified sign language interpreter from the medical insurance provider and the social service agency
- Provision of a safe environment to express the problems through an interpreter
- Ensuring the curative instructions are clear, including the chart of medicines to take
- Registering a complaint against a discriminating health service provider
The urgent need
With recognition of the rights of the deaf, the acceptance of special facilities for mental health counseling for the deaf is gaining momentum. One of the main purposes is the appreciation of the vast and silent world of the deaf people. Recognizing and respecting the voiceless struggle of the deaf community is imperative for an all-round social development.
Special attention to deaf caregiving and ensuring the blending of the deaf community into societal mainstream is vital. The hearing impaired must be able to find suitable jobs in matching their skillset. Financial dependency is always a major reason behind depression. It is indeed true that the world of sign languages embodies a diverse subculture.
In fact, it is only a common myth that signings are the same worldwide. Nevertheless, significant rehabilitation efforts are in progress such as the ‘SIGNS’ restaurant in Toronto, Canada, where all the staffs have acute hearing issues. This is a one-of-its-kind effort of blending communities, and customers receive a brief note on how to communicate with the waiters.