It is well established that the incidence of mental ill-health within the Deaf population is higher than that within the hearing population. It is also known that diagnosis of mental ill-health and subsequent interventions are dependent upon both good communication skills and an understanding of an individual’s background, culture and values. Historically, Deaf people with mental ill-health have had difficulties accessing services and mental health services have struggled to provide appropriate services. These difficulties were the focus of the Department of Health consultation document Sign of the Times (2002), which led to recommendations made in the Mental Health and Deafness; Towards Equality and Access (2005). Many of these recommendations related to increasing professionals’ understanding of mental health and Deafness. This included professionals working in mental health who needed to develop an understanding of Deaf issues, and those working in Deaf services who needed to develop their understanding of mental health. There was, however, a gap in the provision of this specialist training.
The University of Birmingham, in partnership with a number of experts in this field, has sought to close this gap. In 2010 the (Advanced) Certificate in Mental Health and Deafness was developed. Although the course is run by the University many of the lecturers are external to the University and all have expertise in this area. Candidates come from a range of different backgrounds and professions including care assistants, social workers, interpreters, counsellors, managers, nurses and psychologists. Some candidates are hearing, others are Deaf. Lectures are delivered in either spoken English or BSL, and interpreters are provided for every lecture.
This is the only certificate in the country which focuses on mental health and deafness, and (to our knowledge) is one of a kind on an international scale. We have attracted candidates from across the British Isles and in one case Cyprus. Course participants develop an understanding in a range of areas including Deaf awareness, Mental health awareness, Values and ethics, Mental Health policy and legislation, Communication, Assessment, Developmental perspectives, Psychological perspectives, Safeguarding and Social interventions.
Each course runs over an 18 month block and participants usually attend one full day’s lecture every five or six weeks. The next cohort is scheduled to begin in December and applications to the course can be made up to 4th October.