Published on: 9 May 2024

Deaf Awareness Week (6 to 12 May 2024) is a weeklong campaign aiming to promote greater awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by the Deaf community in accessing communication. This year’s theme highlights the need for breaking down the communication barriers that prevent Deaf people from interacting with the public, and that includes when Deaf people are in distress and need mental health support.

Derbyshire has a mental health helpline run by mental health professionals from Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and advisers from the charity P3. The service is available 24/7 to people experiencing distress or anxiety, or who feel that they cannot cope, and it offers support over the phone.

Derbyshire’s Deaf community who are struggling with their mental health are now able to communicate with the mental health helpline team in British Sign Language (BSL) thanks to a recently established video relay service. 

Before the video relay service was introduced, Deaf and hearing-impaired residents used a text relay service to get in touch with the helpline. The new and improved service now allows the Deaf community to contact BSL interpreters through the SignVideo app or website, say where they live, and the SignVideo team will connect them with a member of the helpline team.

The SignVideo service was introduced to support NHS mental health helplines across the country to provide the right care and services for all communities, especially for individuals in need of immediate mental health support. The Derbyshire helpline team were instrumental in the launch of the video relay service. The team trained up the SignVideo interpreters in advance of the launch, led by mental health professionals from Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Eleanor Brett, Interim Area Service Manager for Urgent Assessment Services at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s important that we spread awareness of the Deaf access route into the mental health helpline service so even more Derbyshire residents know how to gain vital support in a time of crisis.

“Mental health issues affect everyone, which is why it is important to support all communities and prevent any barriers of communication - so that people receive the right care at the right time.

“We have a team of professionals on hand, trained in how to support individuals through tough times in their lives. This partnership with SignVideo has already brought a lot of benefit, with members of the Deaf community now able to access the helpline and feel understood and included.”

For more information on how to use SignVideo, local people can visit the Sign Video website’s FAQ page where a series of signed videos can also be found, or for more information on mental health support services visit the Derbyshire Healthcare website.