University of Edinburgh

Enabling Young Deaf People to become Confident Individuals (Promoting Resilience)

Presented on Tuesday 4 June 2009

NDCS Healthy Minds

Caroline Doherty

  • Happiness
  • Resilience
  • Fulfilling lives not 'coping'

A description from 1997 International Workshop on Mental Health Promotion

"Mental Health is the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity".

Notes: One particular strength of this description is that it emphasises that mental health is at once both personal and social.

'Too often we see deaf adults with identified problems that could have been prevented in childhood.'
Dr Margaret du Feu NI Mental Health Report, 2000.

Social inclusion

Deafness itself does not create behaviour problems however a deaf child may become frustrated when they are not able to communicate clearly with others or when they do not understand what is happening around them.

Deafness might affect a child's opportunity to:

  • Learn appropriate social behaviour incidentally
  • Initiate conversations
  • Be fully included in large groups
  • Express their feelings and emotions
  • Develop confidence and a positive self-esteem

NDCS leads on many positive mental health initiatives for deaf children and their families

  • Family Weekends
  • Family support
  • Deaf children & young people's activities
  • Healthy Minds Project
  • Who Am I Project

The Healthy Minds sessions;

  • Understanding the reality of being deaf
  • Understanding this impact on everyday life
  • Develop the attitudes, skills & confidence to manage deafness
  • Strategies for dealing with difficult situations
  • Provide the opportunity to explore current coping strategies & support mechanisms

What is in the sessions?

  • What is a Healthy Mind & why is it important
  • Developing good emotional well-being
  • Support mechanisms & networks
  • Identity – who am I?
  • Owning & managing the deafness
  • I'm OK being deaf? – feeling good

Programme delivery

Using humour we connect with the young person's experiences;

  • problem identification
  • problem exploration
  • problem resolution


  • Young people found emotions easy to identify but will often say some emotions are wrong to have.
  • The emphasis in this session is on Emotion triggers Action, the consequences of this, is what we need to understand and have control over.
  • EG; To hit some one because you are angry is the wrong thing to do, but being angry isn't wrong.

What some young deaf people feel…

  • failed communications
  • feelings of helplessness
  • negative reactions from others
  • feelings of (and real) isolation
  • feelings of frustration/anger
  • feelings of anxiety& stress…etc

how we challenge negative feelings

  • discuss failed situations
  • role-play poor outcomes
  • confront bluffing in the sessions
  • describe physical consequences of failure
  • empower young people to find their support mechanisms

Positive Deafness – how?

  • Assertiveness or Aggression
  • Making Statements about my deafness
  • Taking Ownership
  • Challenging others

Ownership of deafness I am deaf ... and that means ... I need you to...

Importance of challenging safely

  • Confront the individual with reality
  • Provide the opportunity to question current coping strategies

We know it works…

  • individual's presentation of own deafness
  • how they request a change in the other person's behaviour
  • what they expect from the other person

Attitudes, expectations, body language

role play - the key to success

  • the most important thing we can offer people is the chance to PRACTISE direct, assertive communication
  • this is best done through role play
  • we need to be comfortable with correcting inappropriate/ineffective behaviour

"I'm only 'normal' when I’m with my deaf friends, but when I’m with my 'normal' friends, I become deaf again."

Changing the life of children and youth from risk to resilience starts with changing the beliefs of adults in their families, schools and communities...

Why is this resource successful?

  • 300 plus in the pilot group
  • Deaf schools
  • Mainstream schools
  • Families & youth residentials
  • Mental Health professionals
  • From the mouth of babes
  • Basic underlying psychological principles
  • Practical & workable, lifelong learning

The comments…

  • I liked the bouncing cloak- aged 10
  • X understands he's accountable for his communication needs, it's a 2-way process. teacher
  • I know what works well for me is to talk to someone quickly than let things get worse, aged 14
  • I've loads of happy thoughts, that I didn't know I had! aged 11
  • I don't like asking for help, but I do know it's my responsibility and I have to make the move, no one else will do it, aged 16

Elements of Healthy Minds

  • Offer safety
  • Children are listened to…(it fills some real need)
  • Develop real skills…(can be used years down the road)
  • Offers exposure to the world outside the locality
  • Focus on the future, not past disappointments

Healthy Minds

  • Are not trying to fix kids but guide them
  • Are focused on the positive & raising expectations
  • Designed programmes around the needs of the young people
  • Making young people BELIEVE they are making a difference

Food for thought




I like being deaf because...

  • You don't hear anything when you are sleeping
  • If you are not listening in school you can ask the teacher to repeat things without getting into trouble
  • You can annoy people by asking them to repeat again and again

Bad things about being deaf?

  • You can't hear when people are whispering
  • You can't hear on the phone sometimes
  • You pick up words wrong
  • People stare at you and it gets annoying

But I love being deaf!