With an “invisible disability”, the Deaf often receives less empathy from others. On top of feelings of rejection from stigma against sign language and their condition, they struggle with significantly more mental health issues than the hearing, such as depression and anxiety disorders. They have lower self-esteem, often encountering difficulties in developing problem-solving skills and forming peer relationships.
Worse still, many Deaf individuals, especially those who sign, are reluctant to seek mental health services when in distress, due to a lack of professionals who understand both sign language and Deaf culture.
The team sets off to survey the mental health literacy of Deaf signers and identify their areas of misconceptions. They then build a first-of-its-kind Hong Kong Sign Language-Chinese bilingual platform covering topics on common disorders, well-being and stress management etc., in addition to quick mental health assessments and suggested follow-up actions.
The team also organises three sets of workshops co-led by Deaf individuals:
1) Mental health basics for Deaf signers, their families and friends;
2) Deaf storyteller training sessions for Deaf participants to learn telling stories about their identity, who will then share on a Deaf Library Day as a means of empowerment ; and
3) Deaf awareness raising for mental health professionals to learn basic signs and understand the Deaf culture, with sharing from Deaf signers on their mental health service experiences.
The team targets to set a foundation to support both the Deaf community in accessing mental health information, and mental health professionals in better understanding their Deaf clients. The combination of online databank and workshops can improve mental health literacy of Deaf signers that they understand their statuses better and know what to do to improve their mental well-being; help mental health personnel learn basic Hong Kong Sign Language and enhance their awareness towards the Deaf’s mental health needs; and improve communication between mental health personnel and Deaf clients.
In the long run, well-being for minority groups would be promoted while the scope of mental health services in the community could be widened.
– 1,000 Deaf signers
– 2,000 family members of Deaf signers
– 2,000 friends, teachers and professionals serving Deaf clients (e.g. counsellors, social workers, psychologists)
– 60 sign language interpreters
– Other databank users and workshop participants
Felix has been working with the Deaf communities in Hong Kong and multiple Asia-Pacific countries since 1997. Her research interests include sign language documentation, sign linguistics and language development of deaf children. Given her expertise in sign language grammar analysis, Felix has a firm grasp of how concepts of varying complexities can be accurately expressed in signing that is comprehensible to deaf people with diverse linguistic and educational backgrounds.
Winnie has been promoting well-being and fighting against stigma in the community through translating her research into scalable practices. Her research covers stigma reduction, mental health promotion, and personal recovery. In May 2015, she established StoryTaler, which was made a social enterprise in June 2019, with a group of individuals enthusiastic about mental health promotion and have lived experiences of mental illness. Through the years, she and her team developed evidence-based training materials, protocols, and workshops for public education on well-being.