The Deaf health charity SignHealth has been awarded a national contract from NHS England to supply Talking Therapies in British Sign Language (BSL), in what’s been described as a “ground-breaking step forward for the Deaf community”.
The BSL therapy, which supports those experiencing anxiety and depression, is the first specialist Deaf service to be awarded a contract by NHS England, with SignHealth saying the agreement removes “a major funding barrier” to mental health services.
Dr Sarah Powell, clinical lead at the charity, said: “Deaf people are twice as likely to experience mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety compared to hearing people. This is a serious and sometimes life-threatening health inequality.
“Therapy delivered in sign language has been proven to have higher recovery rates and we are delighted that this contract removes the funding barrier so that more Deaf people are able to access life-changing treatment.”
The new accessible therapy means Deaf people can access talking therapy in their own language, and do not have to rely on local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to approve funding on an individual basis – a process described by SignHealth as “complicated” which “often resulted in a postcode lottery” in terms of support.
SignHealth said it has seen a “significant increase” in referrals to its BSL therapy during the pandemic, with a 2020 survey from the charity revealing that one in three deaf people said the coronavirus crisis has had a “major negative impact” on their mental health.
Deaf BSL users in need of mental health support can refer themselves for the talking therapy on SignHealth’s website.