07 June 2006

S2M-3971 Deaf and Deafblind People (Mental Health)

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 7 June 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

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Deaf and Deafblind People (Mental Health)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-3971, in the name of Adam Ingram, on mental health and deaf and deafblind people.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament acknowledges and supports the campaign by the Scottish Council on Deafness (SCoD) for equal access to mainstream and specialist mental health services for deaf and deafblind people in Scotland; notes the widespread lack of provision for deaf and deafblind people who have specific language and communication needs and that presently their rights under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Scotland Act 2003 and Disability Discrimination Act 2005 are not being met, leading to misdiagnosis and unsuitable treatments being applied; further notes with concern the complete lack of consultant psychiatrists in Scotland who are trained and experienced to work with deaf and deafblind people who have mental health problems and that the nearest available specialist mental health service for deaf and deafblind inpatients is Manchester whose outreach service, which is currently used by Scots deaf and deafblind people, is now under threat of closure; endorses the campaign for a specialist mental health service for deaf and deafblind people in Scotland, funded through the NHS, and SCoD's aim of providing support for training and recruiting of deaf and deafblind people to enable them to work with deaf and deafblind patients; backs SCoD's call for additional resourcing for mainstream psychiatric services in both hospital and community settings which would lead to greater accessibility for deaf and deafblind people with mental health problems, and recommends the establishment of a specialist Scottish centre for deaf and deafblind people with mental health problems in the south of Scotland or other suitable region.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Adam Ingram on bringing the debate to the Parliament and note that the Scottish Council on Deafness suggested that the subject should be raised here. I hope that the debate will advance the cause of deaf and blind people throughout Scotland, who suffer from very severe handicaps compared with those from which the rest of us suffer. Adam Ingram suffered from a substantial handicap when he was speaking. I think that I am allowed to say that one of his teeth fell out during his speech. It is a tribute to him that he was not deflected from his task by that inconvenience, which was very minor in comparison with the substantial difficulties that deaf and blind people face. I will make no comment on mobile phones.

I have read a range of material on the subject. The Scottish Council on Deafness's leaflet "Advice for GPs on Counselling Deaf and Deafblind Patients" states:

"40% of deaf people compared with 25% of hearing people have a mental health problem at some point in their life".

The focus of the debate is therefore extremely relevant and important. The leaflet also states:

"The average length of stay for a hearing mental health patient in psychiatric hospitals is 148 days; deaf mental health patients spend an average of 19.5 years"

in mental health hospitals. We can see the relationship between the social isolation that is associated with people with dual sensory deprivation and the increased risk of suffering from mental ill health. More critically, there is the reduced capacity of the NHS and wider social support to respond to mental ill health in people who suffer from dual sensory deprivation. Therefore, the campaign is an excellent start. I hope that the minister will say something of value in that context.

For various reasons, I have a medical every year and can see from my annual reports over the past 15 years the deterioration that age has brought in my hearing and indeed in my sight, with my move from single-capacity specs to bifocals—I am now thinking about trifocals. Figures that are before me suggest that a million people in Scotland have difficulty hearing whispers or faint speech and some 2,000 deaf people use sign language. A wide range of hearing disabilities exists.

On communicating with the health service, 15 per cent of people with the problem said that they would avoid going to see their general practitioner—the figure doubles for sign language users. Almost no GPs are sign language users or interpreters. I once knew around three sign language symbols simply because my Sunday school taught them to me, but I have forgotten everything else that I was taught about sign language. Not many of us know much about sign language.

A high proportion of severely or profoundly deaf people have other disabilities. Among those who are under 60, 45 per cent—nearly half—have other disadvantages.

I feel this personally. In 1964, when I was 17 and worked in a psychiatric hospital, one patient in the ward in which I worked was deafblind. My training was limited and the only communication that I had with that person was when I touched a spoon on their lip. They would then open their mouth so that I could feed them.

A test of our ability to call our society civilised lies in our support for those who are least able to support themselves. I say to the minister let us hear about more action.


Stewart Stevenson
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fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

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