The project was initiated to promote mental health care for deaf people in European countries. By means of written reports and a database system, knowledge about mental health problems and the necessary mental health care will be available.
Commissioned by the European Society for Mental Health and Deafness a research project was started concerning mental health problems among deaf people and mental health care. The project was initiated to promote mental health care for deaf people in European countries. By means of written reports and a database system, knowledge about mental health problems and the necessary mental health care will be available. In the first phase the principal question to be answered was whether a clear and uniform terminology could be reached with regard to mental health problems among deaf people and mental health care.
Using the Delphi method, 22 professionals in mental health care for deaf people and professionals familiar with the deaf and deaf culture held discussions together about this theme. The 3 main subjects discussed during the Delphi workshop were:
mental health problems related to deafness;
the use of the term 'surdophrenia';
With regard to mental health problems related to deafness, the participants were in favour of linking as much as possible with the classification systems already existing. In this respect the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 10 was contemplated.
It was agreed upon that the term 'surdophrenia' should be abolished. An alternative term has been suggested and accepted. The way of defining deafness depends to a great extent on the purpose of the definition. It should be defined according to the context in which it is used. Therefore a multiaxial frame of factors has been presented, where 3 axes represent the following factors: medical factors, communication factors and psychosocial factors.
The first phase of the research project will serve as a basis for the preparation and carrying out of national surveys in Europe and the organizing of another Delphi workshop.
The European Society for Mental Health and Deafness is primarily concerned with deaf people with serious communication difficulties - prelingually deaf and deaf people with additional handicaps such as deaf people who are also blind and deaf people with intellectual handicaps. However, the Society is conscious of the fact that persons with other degrees and types of deafness also require such specialised services.
Without the requisite expertise, including skills in manual methods of communication, mental health workers will be unable to diagnose or treat deaf people correctly. Often deaf people with poor speech are mistakenly thought to be mentally impaired. Mental illness or emotional disorder will not always be recognized or conversely will be mistakenly diagnosed when they are not present.
The most important aim of the Society is to help in the promotion of mental health care for deaf people in European countries, to improve existing services and to stimulate the creation of new services.
In order to achieve this, all knowledge about the problems under consideration will have to be compiled and inventoried. Based on this knowledge, it should become possible to design strategies to supply deaf people with the best possible mental health care facilities.