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Project Story: John Denmark Unit, Manchester

John Denmark Unit, Greater Manchester West Mental Health Trust

The John Denmark Unit is an inpatient unit for Deaf people and the only one of only 3 in the country. The John Denmark Unit provides a comprehensive Mental Health Service to deaf people of all ages who may experience emotional/behavioural issues, personality difficulties, drug and alcohol abuse, or learning difficulties.

The Centre aims to support clients in their mental health by fostering a Deaf identity, facilitating a positive self-image, in order to increase self-esteem, which will enable the person to function as a valued member of the Deaf Community. The Reader-in-Residence works closely with Trust professionals in each service, to recruit group members and co-facilitate sessions.

Get Into Reading commenced at the John Denmark Unit in March 2012. The group are currently exploring a range of poetry, from Wordsworth to E.E Cummings. As some group members have limited hearing or are capable of lip reading I still read the poem aloud whilst the interpreter simultaneously signs the poem.  The poem is ‘read’ not so much from the written page (although all group members are provided with a paper copy) but from the signs which flicker from the hands of the interpreter. The use of props and images to support the BSL translation has proved vital in allowing service users to explore the full meaning of the poem and to begin to make imaginative leaps, from concrete objects and images to more abstract thoughts and feelings that the poem may inspire. The group provides a safe space in which service users can explore and express themselves, and allows service users to experience a world within each poem, which would otherwise be largely inaccessible.

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