Deafness and Mental Health.
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Many of you may know that I unfortunately suffer from depression and anxiety which stems from my hearing loss. I wanted to write a blog about this topic because I feel that this is important, especially in society today where mental health problems are common, but still a taboo subject.
According to Mind (2019), “every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. But hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling.”
But what exactly is mental health?
Our emotional, psychological and social well-being is what determines our mental health. Depending on the state of our well-being, this will affect how we react to situations such as, stress and will affect what choices we make in life. Mental health is important throughout our entire life and can affect us at any point. That is why it is important to raise awareness of mental health issues.
What causes these mental health problems?
There are many factors that can cause one to experience mental health problems. These can range from biological factors such as your genes or a chemical imbalance in your brain, or the type of life experiences you face which could be trauma or abuse. An individual may even have a family history of mental health problems. These factors play an important role in our state of minds as we deliver emotional responses to these which is falls down to mental health problems.
One thing to bear in mind, every individual is different.
But where does this fall in with deafness?
Action on Hearing Loss (2019) stated in a report that there are more than 10 million people in the UK who are affected by hearing loss. Due to our aging population, this will be expected to increase to 14.5 million people in 2031. It is estimated that 10% of our UK population suffer from tinnitus on a regular basis. 1% of those individuals suffer to the point that this affects their quality of life (British Tinnitus Association, 2001).
I do not want to jam pack my blog post with a bunch of statistics, as I know myself that this does not help. I have read so many blogs and articles about mental health, written by people who are well informed with statistics, but do not understand on the same level as people such as myself, who suffer with depression and anxiety.
The point of this blog is to help my fellow Deafies and raise awareness to the general population of the issues that the Deaf population can face when attempting to access services to support their mental health.
Sign Health (2019) stated that Deaf individuals are “twice as likely to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety compared to hearing people”. Although in our case, it can be harder to access the support that we need.
What signs do we look out for?
Keep check on your mental health by keeping an eye on your behaviour and taking notes of any changes in your behaviour. Some examples:
- Frequently experiencing thoughts of negativity and feeling helpless.
- Experiencing mood swings on a frequent basis.
- Having thoughts of harming yourself or ending your life.
- Distancing yourself from your loved ones and your regular activities.
- Eating or sleeping too much or little.
- Constantly worrying that something terrible might happen and unable to control these thoughts.
These are only a few of the symptoms that you can experience. If you are not feeling yourself or have not for a while. Please do not dismiss these feelings and speak to someone around you, whether it is a friend, family member or a work colleague. This step felt so daunting for me, but it was 100% worth it.
A year on after my suicide attempt, I am finally beginning to get back on track to recovery. It has been a tough journey. No journey comes easy. There are bumps along the road to recovery, but if you stay dedicated (it is easier said than done!), it all becomes worth it in the end!
For some people, the journey is longer than others. As I mentioned before, everyone is different.
Currently, I am half way through my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which aims to help me deal with my feelings effectively. Your doctor should assist you in making the decision on which therapy route is best for you as an individual. I had to change doctors because I had difficulty understanding my previous doctor’s strong accent. I now have a doctor who I can understand. She is aware of my Deafness and appropriate ways to communicate to me. She draws diagrams, speaks slower and provides me with leaflets etc.
What action did I take?
When I first noticed the change in my mood and ways of thinking, I decided to go to the local doctors surgery. During these times I felt lost and alone. This was the first big step for me on my big journey. It all started with acknowledgement. I was lucky that I had my own Mother to offer me support and she accompanied me during this trip and provided communication assistance for me.
Although for many of us, simply going to the doctors provides many barriers. These barriers are mainly communication barriers. From the moment I walked into the waiting room, I recognised my first barrier. After checking in on the touchscreen system, I noticed the intercom on the wall. I wondered how I would have coped if I did not have my Mother accompany me. Every time the speaker crackled with this horrible sound with poor clarity, I would look towards my Mum who would shake her head to signal that it was not my name that was called out. It was not until my Mum leapt up quickly which is when I knew my time had come. There are many ways around this issue. Several times I have visited the doctors by myself and informed reception on arrival that I was deaf and would not be able to hear the intercom. They were great help to me!
Top FIVE things that worked well for me:
1. Talking therapies. I discovered that talking therapies worked well for me. I had private counselling for several years before I decided to try something new. This was a vital part of my recovery journey because I could discuss my feelings in a quiet and safe environment and build rapport with my therapist over time. There are always free talking therapies provided on the NHS which your doctor can signpost to you in your local area.
2. Exercise. Many research has found a link between exercise and positive mood. This may not work for some of us. But for those who are willing to try anything, this does not mean you have to join a gym; this could simply be a bike ride in your local area or a brisk walk around the block. Each week, try and set yourself new targets to get the ball rolling!
3. Spending time around loved ones. This is easier said than done when you may find it difficult to get out of bed. Set yourself some achievable targets. Do not expect yourself to go out clubbing on the first week of recovery! Perhaps a coffee at the local coffee shop, or invite your friend over for a takeaway night!
4. Join a club or class. This is something you could try in the later stages of your recovery. Whether this is a sports club or a Deaf Club or even an evening class to learn something new! This is a great way to meet new people with similarities such as yourself and can help boost your confidence and work towards a goal. Maybe ask a friend or family member to join with you!
5. Stay in touch with your feelings and let it all out! I started a blog several years ago as I did not come across any Deaf related blogs. It started off as a place for me to go to rant about things. I honestly had no idea that several years later, I would become an award winning Deaf Awareness Advocate!
What accessible services are there available for Deaf people in the UK?
Here are a few of the many accessible services that I found in my research. There is a wide variety of services available through the NHS, private organisations and different charities. You can carry out a self-referral if you prefer this way.
Text: 07725 909090
1-1 Online chat
Text: “THEMIX” to 85258
If you feel at risk of self harm or you are having suicidal thoughts that you may act on, please check yourself into the nearest accident and emergency department.
I have taken this action myself and I simply approached reception and explained how I was feeling and they informed a member of the medical team, who then took me into a quiet room and contacted the appropriate team to offer me support.