We are concerned about the impact that Covid-19 is having on the 45,000 deaf children in the UK. Many deaf children and young people describe that deaf peers are very important to them, but they currently have limited access because of lockdown. Many use British Sign Language as a preferred language at school but may have limited access to this at home, relying instead on lip reading, facial expressions and other means. The increasing use of face masks creates large communication problems for deaf children and young people.
A research study in recent years showed much higher rates of mental health problems in deaf children. One main factor for this includes the challenges they face in a hearing society. Covid-19 is creating additional challenges.
Our national deaf child and adolescent mental health service (NDCAMHS), with 10 centres across England, supports deaf children and young people with mental health problems. We are currently seeing rises in complex mental health issues exacerbated by isolation and communication problems in the context of Covid-19.
Face masks play a part in the response to control the spread of Covid-19. We ask that where this protection is necessary, options are carefully considered including see-through masks and see-through face shields that are resourced and made available in healthcare and education settings, especially those where deaf people are present.
We also ask that consideration is given to making sure that deaf children and young people have access to good communication and to deaf peers through electronic means, or other special arrangements as the lockdown is relaxed.
The UK is traditionally good at considering the needs of multiple different groups within society, and we ask that deaf children and young people are given consideration as we plan for the future.
Prof Barry Wright Chair of child mental health, University of York; Clinical lead, National Deaf CAMHS, Rachael Hayes Deaf service consultant, National Deaf CAMHS, Lenka Novak Deaf mental health adviser, National Deaf CAMHS, Tim Richardson Manager, National Deaf CAMHS, North, Neil Norman Manager, National Deaf CAMHS, Midlands, Robson Tanhara Manager, National Deaf CAMHS, South-east and London, Dr Nico Gentili Consultant child psychiatrist, National Deaf CAMHS, Dr Andy Holwell Consultant child psychiatrist, National Deaf CAMHS, London, Dr Sophie Roberts Consultant child psychiatrist, National Deaf CAMHS, North, Dr Rob Walker Consulant child psychiatrist, National Deaf CAMHS, Midlands
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