The mental health unit in Manchester helping deaf people from across the country

Watch Anna Youssef's report, which has been signed and subtitled, above.


A mental health unit is helping improve the lives of deaf people across the country - by offering specialised treatment in sign language.

It's the third most common disability in the world yet research shows people are twice as likely to experience mental health problems if they have issues with their hearing.

The John Denmark Unit in Manchester, part of Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, is one of only three NHS providers offering community and inpatient mental health treatment for deaf adults in the UK.

Mark has paranoid schizophrenia. He is one of their longer stay patients but is due to be discharged shortly. We've agreed to protect his identity.

Mark using his media wall which is one of the many ways staff communicate with patients

He said: "If I was put in a hearing unit - there would be zero communication. I'd end up frustrated and become ill because of the lack of access to  the service.

"It's a supportive environment - particularly because it's accessible in British Sign Language and English isn't my first language.

"I get a lot of support from staff and I'm improving all the time and heading in the right direction. In the future I want to move into the community and live independently."

Dr Sodi Mann, a Consultant Psychiatrist on the John Denmark Unit, believes people from the deaf community are more likely to develop mental health problems because of communication challenges and a lack of access to services hearing people can take for granted such as housing, employment, benefits and health care.

Dr Sodi Mann, Consultant Psychiatrist, John Denmark Unit

Dr Mann believes specialist inpatient mental health services for deaf people are absolutely crucial.

He said: "The best way I can explain it is like this - imagine you're someone who only speaks English and you're on a ward where everyone else speaks Japanese and everything is written in Japanese.

"It's about providing them with therapy and with emotional support and our service is there to overcome that language barrier and understand them."

Ben Trott, who is also deaf, has been working on the unit since qualifying as a mental health nurse two years ago.

Ben told me: "I know what it feels like to be frustrated, to not have things accessible, so I understand how these patients are feeling, so it's a natural empathy that you have when you meet these patients. It’s a shared language.

"We also act as role models and thats important for a lot of patients so they can see deaf people can do things and can achieve so I think that is important for the patients."

Ben Trott is a mental health nurse on the John Denmark Unit. He is also deaf.

Claire Sunter's the only deaf person in her family. She has been living with severe depression for the past 20 years and was a patient on the unit.

She says the turning point in her recovery was being able to communicate with all the  staff

She said: "People could understand my mental health problems. The therapy I had - it all helped.

"I could understand what was going on and I could look at how to improve and I learnt a lot so when I went home I used what I had learnt here."

Sharing experiences and a shared language - these patients are getting the help they really need.