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"Mental Illness and the Deaf"

Paraphrased and edited from an October 10, 2016 submission by: Presley Nash


Mental Illness and the Deaf

Deaf people, similar to members of the larger Hearing community also have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.  Deaf people with mental illness struggle both within their own community in addition to the larger Hearing community because they are a "minority in a minority."  Deaf people have a hard time trying to find doctors that have experienced with Deaf Culture. Deaf people with mental illness tend to feel increased loneliness and despair because they cannot communicate clearly with the mental health professionals.  The Deaf community has mental health issues twice as much as the general population does. (Purse, 2016)

One study found that more than half of Deaf people hadn't been able to find mental health services that they could use (Purse, 2016).  Some of the communication difficulties include: few experienced interpreters, problems in translation, and differences in how Deaf people display feelings.  Doctors can use standard tests to check what is wrong when you have a fever or a sore throat but for a good diagnosis of conditions such as mental illness doctors need to ask questions and for that clear communication is important.  This often requires the presence of an interpreter for the Deaf.  Some Deaf people feel uncomfortable because an extra person is in the room.


A Deaf person at school may feel the same type of feelings as in a doctor's office because the other students don't know how to communicate with them.  Deaf children who have trouble communicating with their families are four times more likely to be affected by mental health disorders.(Purse, 2016) 

The mental health issues and needs of Deaf clients are often misunderstood by mental health professionals due to cultural differences and communication challenges. "The majority of Deaf individuals struggling with mental illness have never been seen by a professional who understands deafness or the Deaf culture." (Greenburg, 2014)   Such misunderstandings lead to an increased risk of misdiagnosis (Lydia, 2015) or a tendency  to provide medicine instead of trying to diagnose the problem, (Greenburg, 2014).



Greenburg, J. (2014). Supporting Deaf Individuals with Mental Health Challenges . Hands and Voices, 1-3.

Lydia. (2015, March 18). Deaf people with Mental Illness Archives. Retrieved September 6, 2016, from Interpreting Services:

Purse, M. (2016, March 21). Mental Health Issues in the Deaf Community: Barriers to Care. Retrieved September 8, 2016, from



Also see: "Deaf People: Mental Illness"


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