Andrena McMenemy shares her thoughts on social isolation alongside the launch of the Mental Health and Deafness in Scotland report.
Mapping and providing services for people who are socially isolated has never been so necessary, but, while the pandemic has made it more topical, the need for these services is not new.
Social isolation is a daily occurrence for people who have sensory loss. The pandemic has given people in Scotland a unique chance to experience and relate to this isolation as never before. It has afforded the chance to metaphorically ‘walk in the shoes’ of those who experience isolation as part and parcel of life. Services will be needed to counteract the impact lockdowns have had on mental health, and it is vital that this service provision is inclusive, accessible and available to all.
Over the last two years, I have co-authored three research projects for deafscotland (this link will take you away from our website) in partnership with Queen Margaret University (this link will take you away from our website). These studies aimed at highlighting, and going some way to plug, the current gaps in data on the numbers of people with hearing loss in Scotland. The ‘Mental Health and Deafness in Scotland’ report is the next in the series of this research.
It is crucial to capitalise on the unique awareness the pandemic has brought with it and to break down the barriers so often encountered by deaf people. These barriers to inclusion are out in the open now and they are much harder for society and government at large to ignore. It is important that data is collected and shared so that service provision can reflect the numbers who need it.
It is important that ‘build back better’ is not just a slogan; it is important not to lose the momentum and understanding that has been achieved during these trying times. The first step on the road to this is to ensure that data is collected, reported and disseminated. Alongside this, it is vital to make sure people who need these services are part of the teams designing and planning those services. The co-production model needs to be used and it is vital that those with hearing and/or sight loss are at the table from the start.
‘Social isolation does not pertain to those who have voluntarily disconnected, rather, socially isolated people have an unmet need for meaningful interactions’ (Ramage-Morin, 2016).
Post pandemic society gives us a unique chance to make sure these unmet needs faced by people affected by deafness are finally met.
The ‘Mental Health and Deafness in Scotland: Exploring the Data’ report was launched on 9 June 2021 and can be downloaded here (this link will take you away from our website).