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By Richard France for the Mental Health Foundation

I have spent a number of years in and out of psychiatric institutions from the age of 23, back in 1993 which I first became ill with clinical depression. At that time I had no idea what mental health was about and didn’t understand the process I was going through. As the Disability Discrimination Act didn’t come into force until 1995, there was no legal requirement to provide communication support for people like me who have hearing loss.

Despite suffering psychosis and being given strong medication, I had to rely on lipreading for all aspects of my treatment. This was very difficult for me especially being on a ward where other inpatients would think I was staring at them when actually I was lipreading, so this led to some aggression issues. I approached the Social Services for the Deaf where I was living and they simply refused to help me because they said I could speak.

“I do feel that if my communication needs had been met from the first time I had contact with psychiatric services then I wouldn’t have had so many incidents nor been sectioned as much as I have. I find that even now, my peers with mental health issues still state that communication is the number one issue affecting all deaf people accessing psychiatric services.

This is what I do with my work which is to campaign for greater awareness on the importance of getting the communication right regardless of language preference, and to raise awareness that since the Accessible Language Standards Act was started back in July 2013, medical teams are still not aware of its importance. I am currently in discussion with the Cardiology Department due to a recent illness however they still continue to telephone me even though I have been registered as Profoundly Deaf since birth.”

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