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Free online therapy courses released in New Zealand sign language

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Just a Thought has partnered with Deaf creative agency, Deafradio, and with support from the Ministry of Social Development, to provide free online therapy courses to New Zealand’s Deaf and hard of hearing community.

Two courses on the Just a Thought platform have been released in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) – which is one of three official languages in New Zealand alongside te reo Māori and English. The courses, Mixed Depression and Anxiety and Staying on Track – a guide to support your wellbeing during times of stress and uncertainty, are available online and will teach learners how to manage mental health challenges using proven strategies based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

The release of these courses coincides with International Week of Deaf People, which runs from 19 – 25 September. A key theme of this week is Health for All, which aims to draw attention to the barriers, stigmatisation and discrimination Deaf people face when accessing health-related information and services.

The Coalition of Deaf Mental Health Professionals spokesperson Linda Guirey says the key for Deaf mental health access and support is language, and mental health information is generally not accessible in NZSL, so Deaf people often miss out on critical education and support.
Linda says “Deaf people have a distinct culture, and for most Deaf people English is a second language so having to access complex information in English written for mainstream society is not a cultural or linguistic match, and is often inadequate.

“Recent academic research undertaken in partnership with the Coalition1 pointed to a lack of Deaf cultural mental health services as being a significant barrier to accessing appropriate support. Given that the self-reported need among Deaf people in Aotearoa for support with depression and anxiety is around four-times the national average2, the Just a Thought courses could play an important role for many Deaf people”.

Deafradio’s director Sonia Pivac, who is Deaf, assisted in the production of these courses as a cultural advisor and translator.

She says she hopes the courses will give people in her community confidence and autonomy around managing their own mental health, as well as easy access to support in a way that works for them.

“Despite being an official language for 16 years, access to health information, including mental health, is still rare in NZSL, especially information designed to accompany a viewer through a process or journey. Face-to-face support certainly has its place in the Deaf community, but given that Deaf people have largely missed out on decades of mainstream destigmatisation towards mental illness, being able to access this material privately, online and in your own home, is of real benefit.”

“Many of the concepts and resources on the courses were of broad value, our Seeflow translation team learnt a lot while working on this project,” says Sonia.

Just a Thought general manager Charlie David says he hopes these courses will go some way in bridging the gap for the Deaf community for accessible and effective mental health support.

“For the past three years since launching, we’ve been on a mission to make mental wellbeing support available to every New Zealander. The New Zealand Deaf community is no exception.”

“Both courses are free and available online – so they can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Removing any further barriers to support.”

A series of free wellbeing resources have also been translated into NZSL and can be accessed from the Just a Thought website.

To view the free resources or sign up for one of the courses, please visit: https://www.justathought.co.nz/nzsl

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