We are the Deaf health charity, working towards a future where there are no barriers to good health and wellbeing for Deaf people. Our work is varied and aims to promote equitable access to healthcare and information. We partner with the NHS and other services and take on projects, carry out research, and raise awareness. We also deliver our own services to reach Deaf people in our shared language in their moment of need, through crisis textlines, domestic abuse support, therapy, advocacy and residential services.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

SignHealth provides a psychological therapy service for Deaf people delivered in British Sign Language (BSL). All of our trained therapists are either Deaf or fluent BSL users. We can also cater for those who communicate by lip reading or those who require deaf-blind communication. We are the only IAPT compliant therapy provider serving Deaf people and our team also provides grief and bereavement counselling.

We lead mental health workshops and other activities to raise awareness within the Deaf community.

SignHealth also partners with Mental Health Innovations to promote the Shout 85258 service to deaf people. As a text service it is more accessible than traditional helplines and provides crisis support 24/7.

What are your current priorities?

We are working to improve access to healthcare services for Deaf people across England to enable diagnosis and referrals to occur at earlier stages. We are also working with other organisations to improve mental health service provisions for Deaf children and young people.

What challenges are you currently facing?

Deaf people are twice as likely to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety compared to hearing people. This situation is exacerbated by the difficulty we face in accessing psychological therapy. When we visit health services we often experience communication barriers which can make our symptoms worse.

Research suggests that the best treatment for people suffering from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety is ‘talking therapy’. This therapy method relies on 1-1 communication, but for Deaf people, this is problematic. The moment an interpreter is involved, the conversation becomes less intimate and less effective for the patient.

There are also very few options available for services and support for Deaf children and young people.