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Celia Hulme

Celia Hulme

I am a culturally Deaf researcher and a British Sign Language user based in SORD (Social Research with Deaf People) research group at the University of Manchester. My main research interests are: (1) health research relating to Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users, for example, audiology and mental health; (2) improving access and patient experiences for Deaf BSL users and (3) Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) in health research. Before entering academia, in 2017, I worked at management level in the community and mental health Deaf charity sector.   

Furthermore, my lived experience and professional and academic background contributes to the development of strategies for change working with partners across the sector, policy development, the investigation and implementation of new practice and a clear commitment to evidence-based service improvement. 

Award Title: Mental Health Fellowship

Start Date: 1st August 2022

End Date: 31st March 2024

Location of Research: The Deaf community is a very highly dispersed community; therefore, its needs are best understood on a national basis. 

Project Title: Social Prescribing for Culturally Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) Users 

Brief Summary: 

Social prescribing (SP) supports health and wellbeing in a non-medical way. It allows primary and social care professionals to refer people to non-clinical activities, social groups, learning opportunities and services that are provided in the community. 

Research has shown that people from ethnic/cultural minority groups do not always benefit from SP because of barriers accessing opportunities that meet their cultural/language needs. Activities and social opportunities within cultural linguistic communities are not well linked to social prescribing. Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users are one such group. There is no evidence that SP is used with Deaf signers despite the high rates of poor mental health amongst Deaf people. The social, health and learning benefits of the Deaf community activities are not integrated with SP frameworks meaning Deaf people miss out. 


Social prescribing and culturally Deaf people are an under-researched phenomenon. Therefore, to address the aims and objectives, a mixed methods approach which allows for multiple perspectives is applied to this research.  

Phase 1: Scoping review to gather more evidence from publications about models and best practices for social prescribing with cultural-linguistic communities. Phase 2: Surveys and semi-structured interviews will be carried out with prescribers/link workers and deaf organisations/service providers to find out their experiences linked to social prescribing and Deaf people. Phase 3: Focus groups will be set up for Deaf people to share their views on and experiences of social prescribing. Phase 4: A draft of what a social prescribing model could look like for Deaf people will be developed. The model will be mapped using social prescribers, link workers and Deaf organisations/service providers.  

Evidence from all stages will be put together to decide whether a pilot study of SP for Deaf signers should be tested to see if it is effective. 

Benefits anticipated: By the end of this study, a draft SP model to address common mental health needs amongst Deaf signers with the aim of acting as a preventative measure to escalation to clinical services will have been established alongside an implementation framework. Its acceptability and the feasibility of implementation will have undergone a preliminary assessment. Evidence to indicate whether its testing in a future feasibility study is justified will have been established.