University of Edinburgh

Mental Health and Deafness

Presented on 5 June 2008

Understanding factors that affect the well-being of deaf young people

Shanée Buxton

What is happening?

A model used in mental health to explain why difficulties emerge in some people and not others is the 'stress-vulnerability model'.

stress model

stress model

stress model

What vulnerabilities may affect people?

  • Genetic factors eg; Cystic Fibrosis
  • Environmental factors eg; Chernobyl
  • Birth complications eg; Cerebral Palsy
  • Additional learning difficulties eg; Autism
  • Deafness could be classified as a vulnerability

What stressors do deaf young people experience?

  • Physical and mental well-being
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Cultural
  • Environmental
  • Language
  • Self-esteem

Physical and mental well-being

  • Abuse: physical, sexual, neglect and emotional
  • Access to information re maintaining physical well-being and to primary health care, eg; GPs

Stressors to cultural and religious influences


Environmental stressors

  • War
    Mental well-being, eg; PTSD and breaking of attachment
    physical well-being
  • Access to services varies - dependent upon status (not aware of what's available) and the 'postcode lottery'
  • Social status - refugee, housing, material goods, benefits, opportunity, experience etc.


Lack of access to language and developmental experience, can affect:

  • Cognitive development
    Impact on brain development
    Impact on scaffolding (Vygotsky)
    Delays/vulnerability in consequential thinking

  • Metacognitive development
    Delays or vulnerabilities in understanding other people's perspective - 'Theory of Mind'

  • Emotional development
    Limited emotional understanding/emotional regulation/empathy


The development of self starts to occur during the 2nd and 3rd year of life, in the context of social interactions and relationships

Self-esteem expresses the attitude of approval or disapproval, and indicates the extent to which the individual believes himself to be capable, significant, successful and worthy. Coopersmith (1967)

Low self-esteem

Impact on functioning in all areas (eg; relationships, learning, etc.):

  • Expect to fail
  • Don't try
  • Give up easily
  • Don't acknowledge success – reject/ can't see
  • Negative self-talk
  • Unable to ask for help
  • Self-fulfilling cycle

How can we address these stressors and improve the well-being of the deaf young people in our care?

When should we be thinking of asking for help from other agencies?

  • Dangerous behaviour
  • Suicidal, self-harm, harming others
  • Failure to develop, eg; physical, cognitive and language
  • Further assessment for developmental delays, autism, specific language difficulties
  • Externalising behaviour
  • Aggressive behaviour, noncompliance
  • Internalising
  • Those who are not a 'management problem' often get left, but monitor: change in behaviours/mood, withdrawing, change in appetite and sleep