Mental Health for Deaf People

Publication Date: February 18, 2020

This image is a colorful illustration of a weighing scale with a heart and a brain in perfect balance.

“when the world comes crashing at
your feet
it’s okay to let others
help pick up the pieces
if we’re present to take part in your
happiness
when your circumstances are great
we are more than capable
of sharing your pain”

― Rupi Kaur, The Sun and Her Flowers

As we emerge from the winter season, our exposure to limited sunlight and longer periods of darkness may affect our mental and emotional well-being.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which can bring with it additional anxiety, depression and other stress about romance and relationships. Research shows that deaf people are more likely to struggle socially, emotionally and with other issues impacting mental health.

Tips for Self-Care

“Recovery is not so much a dream as it is a plan.” – Carolyn Spring

In “Actually, I am Not Okay! Mental Health in the Deaf Community,” Deaf Unity offers some self-care strategies:

  • Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. You are not alone. It is so important that you do not struggle in silence.

  • Eat well. Deaf nutritionist Jeanann Doyle explains that good nutrition is tied to positive mental health.

  • Enjoy time with friends. Research has shown that early or pervasive lack of communication access with family members and others in the deaf person’s environment are mental health risk factors. Spending quality time with companions may reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

  • Be kind to yourself. Negative attitudes from deaf and hearing people can be a barrier to healthy social and emotional development. Take part in positive experiences with and about deaf people, which break down negative stereotypes and increases awareness.

Find a Qualified Professional

The number of accessible mental health providers and services has been increasing along with awareness of the diverse communication and identities of deaf people.

Technology allows for remote counseling with deaf-sensitive professionals. The Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center offers national and statewide directories for mental health services for deaf people.

NDC’s Mental Health Services tip sheet offers several considerations for providing effective counseling services:

  • Direct and effortless communication between the deaf person and practitioner.

  • Practitioner’s cultural competency (i.e. understanding of deaf experiences in a hearing world, communication preferences and deaf culture).

  • Effective and appropriate means of mental health assessments.

  • The importance of accurate and qualified interpretation between ASL and English in mental health settings.

Additional Resources

The National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD) offers several resources and strategies to locate crisis services, community resources and deaf-accessible hotlines:

  • Crisis Line for VideoPhone users who use American Sign Language (available 24/7): 321-800-3323 (321-800-DEAF)

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: To chat online with a counselor (2pm-2am Monday-Friday Eastern Standard Time) TTY Hotline: 800-799-4889

  • Crisis text line: text START to 741-741 (free, available 24/7, sometimes have Deaf counselors available)

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline:

    • E-mail: deafhelp@thehotline.org

    • TTY: 1-800-787-3224 (24/7 hotline)

    • VP: 1-855-812-1001 (Monday to Friday 9AM—5PM Pacific Standard Time

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Type of Resource: mental health

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