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Disability, Mental Health

Improving mental health access for deaf and hard of hearing consumers

Eastern Health 3 mins read

•    Expression Australia AUSLAN Communications Cards will assist Deaf and Hard of Hearing mental health consumers feel reassured whilst waiting for loved ones and Auslan interpreters when accessing Eastern Health services.
•    The Auslan communication cards are mental health specific, aiding the communication between our patients and mental health clinicians.
•    Eastern Health is the only public mental health service to contribute to this initiative by Expression Australia.
•    The AUSLAN cards will be distributed site wide across Eastern Health. 

INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY: Senior Psychiatric Nurse, Harry Singh is available for interview upon request. Contact Marianna Alepidis to arrange a time

PHOTOS: Available for download here.

Eastern Health is working to improve access for consumers who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing when seeking support for mental health assessment and care.

Expression Australia AUSLAN Communications Cards will be distributed across Eastern Health sites to assist Deaf and Hard of Hearing mental health consumers feel reassured whilst waiting for loved ones, carers, and Auslan interpreters when accessing our services.

Eastern Health project leads Senior Psychiatric Nurse, Harry Singh and Disability Liaison Officer, Christina Georgiadis said the Auslan communication cards are mental health specific, aiding the communication between consumers and mental health clinicians.

“The cards will help our staff ask about communication preferences using text, images and video. They ask if they’re okay with a virtual interpreter and then follows into some mental health questions.

“These are the questions that mental health nurses ask on the frontline, which helps them guide consumers to the safest place in the emergency department, clinic or ward. It's addressing a gap in communication that both staff and consumers feel because of the language barrier,” Ms Georgiadis said.

“What we want is for anyone who comes to our organisation, who identifies themselves as deaf or hard of hearing, to know we've got the resource handy. There is also an online version that can be accessed by QR code,” Mr Singh added.

“Our staff will be equipped and it's a way to make people feel welcomed and make them aware that we want to genuinely understand and help them. Often by the time they actually come to our units, they're very distressed and can be experiencing an acute mental health episode. Having better communication resources helps to build trust in our service and connect with our consumers.”

Countless hours of work have been put into researching and consulting professionals and the community to ensure the cards are effective and relevant in a healthcare setting.

Eastern Health is the only public mental health service to contribute to this initiative by Expression Australia.

Expression Australia CEO Rebecca Adam talked about the important role of Eastern Health in the establishment of these tools.

“Eastern Health was invited to be one of the key stakeholders in the Deaf Regional Health project, funded by the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building Grant in 2020. Eastern Health has been instrumental with giving an insight into how the hospital system works, how the interpreter booking system works, and how access to healthcare for deaf and hard of hearing patients can be improved,” she said.

Mr Singh supported this process.

“We gathered feedback from our consumer facing teams across our mental health and emergency departments. They noted the most important questions that would help them understand the mental health needs of those consumers. Expression Australia used our knowledge and expertise to then translate our questions into Auslan and met with their Deaf and Hard of Hearing mental health consumers to see what was most appropriate,” he said.

The cards are not to be used in replacement of an interpreter, but will complement the use of interpreter services and allow staff to engage in instances when access to an appropriate Auslan interpreter is delayed.  

Effective communication empowers Deaf and Hard of Hearing people explain their health care needs, creating a safer and welcoming environment during some of the more vulnerable moments in their life.  


Contact details:

Marianna Alepidis

Media Officer

marianthe.alepidis@easternhealth.org.au

0437 875 825

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