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Mental health

Living with a mental health condition

Information about living with a mental health condition in British Sign Language (BSL).

We often talk about our physical health, but we’re not always as good at talking about our mental health. Mental health means how we think, feel and act. Some people might call it emotional wellbeing

When we have good mental health, we enjoy spending time with other people or on our own. We can handle new things and enjoy our hobbies.

When our mental health is not so good, we might withdraw from other people and find it harder to cope with new challenges. We might not want to spend time on our hobbies any more.

In the same way as we sometimes have coughs and colds, everyone has days when they feel a bit sad, angry or nervous. For example, it’s normal to feel nervous on your first day at a new school, or upset if your parents tell you off. These emotions help us to learn.

However, if you seem to have more bad days than good days, it could be a sign that you have a mental health problem.

If you’re finding it hard to take care of your mental health, it’s really important that you ask for help. Tell a family member, doctor or an adult you trust about how you feel. They can help you to find the support you need to start feeling better.

Talking about mental health problems can be really tough. But asking for help can be the first step in helping you feel better.

Talk to someone you trust. This might be a parent or other family member, a teacher, or another trusted adult. You might feel nervous about talking to someone. Here are some tips for making the conversation easier:

  • Plan what you want to say in advance.
  • Find a quiet, private space to talk in. This will help you to open up and be honest.
  • If you find it too hard to speak or sign about the problem, try writing it down or drawing a picture to express how you feel. Include a list of what you’re worried about and how long it’s been going on for. 
  • don't try and speak slowly - this can make it more difficult to lip-read
  • Think about what would help you. If you’re not sure what you need, that’s ok.

Your trusted adult can then support you to speak to a doctor (or you can go straight to your GP if you prefer). Your GP will want to know about how you have been feeling and how long it's been going on. They might refer you to Deaf Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (see below) or they may recommend different kinds of treatment.

If you don't feel ready to speak to someone you know or a doctor, that's ok! You can contact Childline and speak to one of their helpful counsellors. You can speak over the phone, or via text chat or email. If you're a BSL user, you can also talk over video chat with the help of an interpreter.

If you live in England and are struggling with your mental health, you might be seen by the Deaf Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Deaf CAMHS). Deaf CAMHS is a specialist service for deaf young people. You can be referred to Deaf CAMHS by any professional, such as a school teacher, a social worker or your GP. Deaf CAMHS will assess you and decide what kind of treatment you need.

Deaf CAMHS don’t work with all deaf young people. If they can’t help you directly, they’ll still be able to advise on the help you need and whether you need to be referred on to other support services, such as your local mainstream CAMHS service.

If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, your GP can refer you to mainstream CAMHS, who might work with Deaf CAMHS to give you the right treatment. Make sure your local CAMHS team knows that you’re deaf. They should make sure any treatment you have is deaf-friendly.

You might also be able to access therapy through your school. Talk to a teacher or your Teacher of the Deaf to find out more.

Most people will, at some point in their lives, have times when they feel sad, anxious or low. However, if this problem lasts for weeks or months it could be a sign of a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.

1. It’s not your fault

Having a mental health condition is nothing to be ashamed of. Like physical illness, mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of their background. Being diagnosed with a mental health condition doesn’t mean that you’re worth any less than anyone else. It just means you might find some parts of everyday life more difficult.

2. You’re not alone

One in three deaf children and young people will experience mental health problems at some point.

3. Help is available

See above for advice on asking for help.

4. It’s good to talk

Whether it’s your mum, your best friend or even your dog, telling someone how you feel will make you feel better.

Sometimes, mental illnesses can make us feel that life will never get better. That’s not true! With the right treatment, even people with severe mental health conditions can go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Lots of us do things to take care of our physical health, like eating healthily and exercising. But our caring for our mental health is just as important, and there are lots of things you can do to help stay mentally healthy.

1. Talk

Talk to an adult you trust about how you’re feeling, like your parents, carers or other close family members, doctors, counsellors and therapists. (Your friends can be great too!)

2. Get active

You can join a sports club or just enjoy family time walking, playing in the park or garden, or even dancing together!

3. Sleep

Children need at least nine hours sleep every day. Put all online devices away an hour before you sleep. The light from them can keep our brains active.

4. Eat healthily

Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, and reduce sugar and fat in your food and drinks wherever you can.

5. Practise self-care

Even if you don’t have a mental health condition, there are lots of things you can do to help you stay well. These things are sometimes called ‘self-care’. Self-care just means things that you do to keep your mind healthy and happy.

What does self-care look like for you? Here are some ideas from other deaf young people:

  • Have a bubble bath.
  • Draw, paint or do some colouring.
  • Cuddle your pet.
  • Watch your favourite film.
  • Do something nice for someone you love.
  • Go for a jog.
  • Listen to music.
  • Dance around your bedroom.
  • Bake a cake.
  • Organise your wardrobe.
  • Text a friend.
  • Try some yoga.
  • Practise sign language.
  • Talk to a relative you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Make a vlog.
  • Eat something delicious.
  • Watch a funny video on YouTube.
  • Play a game with your sibling.
  • Have a nap.
  • Plan a day out with friends.
  • Read a book
  • Write in your journal.
  • Sit in the garden.
  • Wear your favourite outfit.
  • Write a poem or short story.
  • Make a list of places you’d like to visit.