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See me, hear me. Mental health barriers for disabled & Deaf Londoners

Disabled people and Deaf people face considerable difficulty accessing the mental health support they need:

  • Deaf people have said that their frustration at communication barriers is sometimes mistaken for aggression by health professionals.
  • The NHS website has over 900 health-related videos, yet just one is available in British Sign Language (BSL).
  • Mental health services are not always accessible to disabled people and deaf people - facilities may not be adapted to support people with mobility impairments.
  • 92 per cent of blind and partially sighted people surveyed received no emotional support at the time of diagnosis.

Disabled people and Deaf people are more likely to experience mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. Deaf people are twice as likely to suffer from depression as hearing people.

  • More than one in ten adult Londoners has some form of impairment.
  • There are over a million people with hearing loss, including over 80,000 profoundly or severely deaf people in London.
  • There are 175,000 people living with sight loss in London.
  • There are around 469,000 Londoners with a degree of mobility impairment.

The London Assembly Health Committee on 11 April published its findings and recommendations to the Mayor on how he can support better mental health for disabled people and deaf people. The report recommends:

  • The Mayor should help commission pan-London communications support for deaf Londoners and those with learning disabilities.
  • The Mayor and London Health Board should look closely at issues around employment, housing, crime and transport, to ensure disabled people and deaf people are given control and choice over their lives.
  • The Mayor and the London Health Board should capture data on physical and sensory impairment across London, in order to assess need. Mental health trusts should also audit how well services meet the needs of disabled people and deaf people.

Dr Onkar Sahota AM, Chair of the Health Committee, said:

“It’s appalling that such a major health inequality exists within the health system, especially when there are quick wins, which could make a significant difference to the lives of disabled people and deaf people. Simple changes, like providing a mobile number to text when a deaf person is in a crisis situation could open up services.

Supporting independent living is also absolutely crucial for good mental wellbeing. The Mayor has powers in housing, transport, employment and crime and could do more to ensure disabled people and deaf people have choice and control over their lives.

We need to include the voices of disabled people and deaf people in shaping the services they need. The Mayor of London needs to step up to the challenge of addressing this major health inequality.”