Online New Zealand Sign Language courses break down barriers deaf people face in accessing health information

Just A Thought courses could play an important role for many deaf people. Picture / Provided

Just a Thought has partnered with deaf creative agency Deafradio, with support from the Department of Social Development, to provide free online therapy courses to New Zealand’s deaf and hard of hearing community.

Two courses on the Just a Thought platform have been published in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), which is one of New Zealand’s three official languages, alongside Te Reo Maori and English.

The courses, “Mixed Depression and Anxiety” and “Staying on Track – a guide to support your wellbeing during time of stress and uncertainty”, are available online and will teach learners how to manage mental health issues using strategies based on cognitive and behavioral behavior. therapy (CBT).

The release of these courses coincided with International Deaf People’s Week in September. A key theme this week is ‘Health for All’, which aims to draw attention to the barriers, stigma and discrimination Deaf people face when accessing health-related information and services.

Coalition of Deaf Mental Health Professionals spokesperson Linda Guirey says the key to mental health access and support for the Deaf is language, and mental health information is generally not not accessible in NZSL, so deaf people often lack essential education and support.

    The self-reported need among deaf people in Aotearoa for support for depression and anxiety is about four times the national average.  Picture / Provided
The self-reported need among deaf people in Aotearoa for support for depression and anxiety is about four times the national average. Picture / Provided

“Deaf people have a distinct culture, and for most Deaf people, English is a second language, so having access to complex information in English written for society at large is not a cultural or linguistic match, and is often inadequate,” says Linda.

“Recent academic research has indicated that the lack of cultural mental health services for the Deaf was a significant barrier to accessing appropriate support. Given that the self-reported need among Deaf people in Aotearoa for support for depression and anxiety is about four times the national average, Just a Thought classes could play an important role for many deaf people.”

Deafradio director Sonia Pivac, who is deaf, helped produce these courses as a cultural advisor and translator.

She says she hopes the classes will give people in her community the confidence and autonomy to manage their own mental health, as well as easy access to support in a way that works for them.

“Despite being an official language for 16 years, access to health information, including mental health, is still rare in NZSL – particularly information designed to take a viewer through life. of a process or a journey.

“Face-to-face support certainly has its place in the Deaf community, but given that Deaf people have largely missed decades of widespread destigmatization towards mental illness, being able to access this material privately, online and in your own home, is of real benefit.

“A lot of concepts and resources on the courses were of great value – our Seeflow translation team learned a lot while working on this project”, says Sonia.

Just a Thought chief executive Charlie David says he hopes these courses will help bridge the gap for the deaf community when it comes to accessible and effective mental health support.

“Over the past three years since launch, we have been on a mission to make mental wellbeing support available to every New Zealander. The deaf community is no exception.”

“Both courses are free and available online – so they can be accessed anywhere, anytime.”

A series of free wellness resources have also been translated into NZSL and can be accessed on the Just a Thought website. To view the free resources or register for one of the courses, visit https://www.justapensée.co.nz/nzsl.

Sylvester L. Goldfarb