The purpose of this Fact Sheet is to inform deaf and hard of hearing consumers about mental health care and how they can go about getting services. Obtaining mental health care is a very personal and individual decision. It is very important that consumers are aware that they can ask for what they need.
If you or any of your family members are troubled by the following problems, you might need behavioral health services:
- Feeling hopeless, guilty, worthless, helpless, sad, or losing interest in activities, school or work;
- Changes in sleep patterns, weight or appetite, having difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions, or having mood swings, much more energy, much less need for sleep, and poor judgment;
- Wanting or planning to hurt self or others;
- Believing that behavior is controlled by others or that messages are being sent from strangers, radio, TV, etc.;
- Concerned about death, hearing voices, or seeing things that others do not see or hear or believing that others are plotting against him/her;
- Feeling bad or guilty about drinking too much or using drugs;
- Hiding drinking, having blackouts or drinking or using drugs when waking up to steady nerves or get rid of a hangover.
What is mental health care?
There are many, many reasons to seek mental health care. Mental health care is used to support life changes, such as aging, childbirth, and divorce, personal growth, improve mood, overcome substance abuse, and help resolve conflicts between people. Some issues that you may experience include difficulty with your mood, e.g., depression or anxiety, an emergency or crisis in your life, like domestic violence, a family or school-related problem, a conflict with your spouse, partner, or friend who may be deaf or hearing, a health-related concern including HIV/AIDS or drugs or alcohol, or a job-related concern. You may also have a deaf or hearing child or parent who is experiencing some difficulty in school or with friends. Finally, you might want to explore your identity, perhaps related to your hearing loss, culture, or sex.
Who provides mental health care?
Mental health care is provided by mental health services and qualified professionals. Mental health services are located, for example, at mental health agencies, psychiatric units in hospitals, or residential programs, or even privately. Qualified mental health professionals include social workers, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, or substance abuse counselors. Each professional has specific skills, for example, a psychiatrist is specially trained to administer medication to people who need it. Professionals work directly with people and can provide counseling and therapy.
Who is a qualified professional?
A qualified professional is an individual who has earned a Masters or Ph.D. degree in a specific mental health profession, such as those noted above. Mental health professionals are licensed by the state where they work. All professionals have codes of ethics that require certain behavior, for example, confidentiality. Even though the deaf community is small, confidentiality can be maintained. You may also have to use the services of a professional, qualified interpreter in your community if the professional cannot sign. A professional, qualified interpreter is an individual who is certified by the NAD, the RID, or by some states that have an interpreter certification process. The use of a highly skilled, professional interpreter is essential for accurate and sensitive communication between you and the mental health professional. You may want to suggest the names of interpreters you know to be competent and reliable. Why? In the small deaf community, it is important to use interpreters who can understand your need for confidentiality.
How do I find mental health resources in my community?
You can find mental health care in your community in several ways. One way is through a referral from a friend, a relative, colleague at work, minister or rabbi, school for the deaf, or another service provider, like the VR counselor, who may know of a qualified professional in your community you could go to. Another way is to look in a TTY phone book under Health, Mental Health, Counseling, Psychotherapy, for example. The important thing is that you’re able to communicate comfortably with that individual either directly or through the use of an interpreter. Writing or using a friend or relative to help you communicate is not advisable. You have to find out whether you are comfortable by yourself by contacting and visiting the professional. Of course you can bring a friend or relative with you for support! You may also wish to request a professional interpreter whom you know and are comfortable with, but you may have to accept the interpreter who is available for your situation to help facilitate communication. That is most important.
How do I pay for mental health services?
There are several ways to pay for mental health services. One way is to pay using your own money. Some services will adjust their fee depending on how much you earn. Another way is to use your health insurance. Health insurance includes Medicaid (State), Medicare (Federal), or private insurance. Medicaid or private insurance may be administered by a managed care company. Your health benefit may be paid for by your employer, the government, or by yourself, if you own your own business. The managed care company is responsible for identifying services that you can use under your health care plan and may be responsible for paying for interpreter services.
How do I use my managed or health care insurance benefits?
First, you can go directly to a mental health service or professional and ask for their assistance contacting the insurance or managed care company. You can also call the insurance or managed care company by TTY or Relay and tell them the name of the professional you want to go to because the professional can communicate with you. You have a choice in this decision!
What kind of information do mental health care professionals need?
First, they need to know what the problem is, for example, that a person is depressed or lonely or going through some changes. Second, they need to know what kind of health care benefit the person has and the information on the insurance card. Third, they need to know how a person communicates and what kinds of accommodations, for example interpreter, are needed. It is important to be as specific as possible. Fourth, they may need to know where to obtain the services of an interpreter.
What are my rights as a consumer of mental health services?
You have the right to:
- Communicate with a mental health care professional in a confidential and safe environment in the language and mode that is most comfortable for you to use.
- Clearly understand the problem you have and the recommendations being made for your care.
- Clearly understand what medication you are being asked to take, what the side effects are, and what the medication will do.
- Be informed about why a report is being made, for example, on child abuse or neglect.
- Ask for a referral from your insurance company to a qualified professional who works with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Your choice of provider or interpreter, if there is one who you are comfortable with.
For more information about services in our area, please see the Southwestern Pennsylvania Behavioral Health Service resource directory.
Source: National Association of the Deaf – Mental Health Facts
If you would like to learn more about this topic or if you have resources to offer, please contact us.