Authors: Anna Dubbelt, NEW ZEALAND
Event: 2008 TheMHS Conference
Subject: CULTURAL ISSUES, Deafness and Mental Illness
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: The Deaf Mental Health Service is the sole specialist community support service for Deaf and hearing impaired people in New Zealand, and is run by Richmond NZ (part of Richmond Fellowship worldwide). It was established in 2001. With the recent patterns in immigration, and a growing appreciation of the rights of the individual, a growing trend in the wider community mental health services is the need to cater for clients from a diversity of backgrounds. However the idea of cultural diversity often does not extend to culturally Deaf people. Preconceptions of deafness, and consequently the abilities and strengths of a Deaf person experiencing mental illness, risk creating barriers to effective health care. The Deaf Mental Health Service has developed a specialist support function, not only for Deaf and hearing-impaired clients directly, but just as importantly for the mainstream mental health providers and their staff to collaborate in order to maximize the quality of support that a Deaf client may receive from both services. This working relationship between two services is key in providing appropriate access to mental health care to clients with non-mainstream cultures. We envisage a growing need for this and similar services in the future. This paper focuses on how this relationship and improvement in service delivery is achieved, and draws on lessons learned that are relevant to specialist, as well as mainstream, service providers and stakeholders.