Its a sad fact of life that deaf children are more likely to experience mental health problems than other children. There are many reasons why this might be – but at the core of any explanation has to be the difficulties that deaf children may experience when growing up in a hearing world that isn’t always deaf aware. Not being able to communicate effectively with your own members of the family, where they are hearing and with your hearing peers in school can be a real struggle.
I mentioned in my last post that the Government has commissioned an independent review into child and adolescent mental health services, which goes by the catchy acronym CAMHS. NDCS is encouraging parents of deaf children who have used CAMHS to give their views to the review’s call for evidence. NDCS will also be submitting a response.
I think this is a really important review – and it’s doubly important that the needs of deaf children are taken into account. Sadly, I’ve known people who’ve had to make use of CAMHS. At the first, the treatment was appalling – the people who were meant to help her made very little effort to take into account her communication needs or to understand her background as a deaf teenager who had always struggled in mainstream education. She was forced to go into group therapy discussions – where other patients would give their views on her difficulties without her knowing what was being said. She was once told off for always wanting to sit next to the notetaker for the meeting so she could read what was being said. I was astonished by some of the stories that I heard.
Eventually, she was given treatment at a special unit in Birmingham. The treatment was better. But she was discharged before she ready and little ongoing care or monitoring was provided. The system failed her, and that she is still with us is largely due to the dedication and love of her mother, and her own will to keep fighting and surviving.
I am not saying that all CAMHS are as bad as the example quoted above and I know for a fact that there are some very dedicated professionals out there. But much more needs to be done to make sure that deaf children get the help they need and, even better, to promote their mental health and well-being so that they don’t need to use these services. There needs to be much more focus on prevention – and thinking about how we promote resilience and confidence in deaf children so that they can thrive when they grow up.
If you’ve got any thoughts on CAMHS, please drop us a line. Even better, respond to the call for evidence. The more people who write in about deafness, the more likely it is the review will take this issue seriously.