We have sessions and programmes as well as a series of videos delivered in BSL.
An article, by Kim McGregor, in Happiful magazine explains some of the challenges faced by the deaf and hard of hearing community during the pandemic.
More so than ever before, the mental health of the deaf community is being impacted by world events. It’s time to read the signs, and lend a hand to those in need.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the world greatly, and we’re all getting used to the ‘new normal’ list of leaving-the-house essentials – your keys, wallet, bag and face mask. And while putting on that mask is something most of us can manage just fine, for someone with a hearing impairment, putting on a mask can have a great impact. Face masks may protect us from the virus, but they also create more communication barriers for those in the deaf community.
YouTuber and deaf awareness advocate Louise Goldsmith spoke of her struggles as a deaf person during the Covid-19 crisis. “I walked past a retail worker who smiled politely while wearing her mask, but what I didn’t realise was that she was speaking to me. It was only when my partner, Jack, who is hearing, pointed out she was complimenting my mask that I became aware.”
But alongside these difficulties in communicating, Louise highlights how individuals have been kind and supportive during the pandemic. “Retail workers have been great – when I tell them I am deaf, they often lower their masks behind the clear screen so I can see their mouths.”
As a lot of people with hearing impairments rely on mouth patterns and lip reading, wearing a mask has made many people feel more isolated. Since face masks have become mandatory, there has been no formal acknowledgement of support for the deaf community with regards to how they cope with this requirement. However, members of the public have taken the initiative to address the issue, with seamstresses creating masks with ‘windows’ to help those with hearing loss to see others’ mouths, while keeping faces covered.
While it’s clear that Covid-19 has impacted the mental wellbeing of the deaf community, it’s important to be aware that even before the pandemic, deaf individuals have disproportionately struggled with mental health issues. Out of the 66 million people living in the UK, 11 million experience hearing loss. While we’re all familiar with the stats on one in four people in the UK experiencing mental ill-health, in the deaf community the prevalence of mental illness can range from 30–60%. The question is, why is mental illness more common for those with hearing impairments, and how we can help?