Misdiagnosing Deaf Clients with Psychotic Symptoms: The Importance of Considering the Likelihood of Language Deprivation as a Contributing Factor to Presenting Symptoms
March 19, 2021 | 3 p.m. EST | 2 p.m. CST | 1 p.m. MST | 12 p.m. PST
Mental Health Professionals working with the Deaf population often find themselves unprepared, and even unaware, of the intensive and complicated needs their clients may present with, specifically regarding Deaf individuals that have experienced Language Deprivation. Historically, the presenting behavioral, emotional, and/or psychological symptoms of Deaf clients have most often been misdiagnosed as symptoms of a severe mental illness. However, researchers and professionals working in Deaf Mental Health Care have a strong body of literature to support the belief that symptoms of mental illness in the Deaf population might be caused by not having access to appropriate and/or effective language acquisition during critical early developmental stages. Moreover, without appropriate interventions to help facilitate effective language acquisition, learning the rules of social interaction, as well as many other critical life skills, Deaf individual will likely present with symptoms that closely resemble those of a severe mental illness, including symptoms of psychosis. Therefore, Mental Health Professionals working with the Deaf community should always be as thorough as possible when performing mental health assessments that are used for diagnosing a Deaf client. By implementing more appropriate assessment practices, regularly consulting with other knowledgeable professionals, and using extreme caution when diagnosing a Deaf client with any mental illness, clinicians will begin using techniques identified as “best practice”. As a result, Deaf clients that are referred for mental health assessments will have a greater opportunity to receive both appropriate, and effective, mental health services.