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Barriers to Mental Health Access of Deaf Adults in Kenya: A Review 

Joyce W. Ngugi, Psy.D. Candidate in Clinical Psychology, United States International University-Africa, and Anne K. Mwiti. Ph.D. Candidate in Clinical Psychology; Daystar University, Nairobi, Kenya


The Deaf (capitalized ‘D’) refer to those who ascribe to the Deaf community and culture. The majority of adults who are Deaf experience marked difficulties in accessing quality and affordable mental health care in Kenya. Factors that affect these access barriers require a review in order to inform interventions. Systematically, five key databases were searched and three specialized journals identified fourteen papers that met the inclusion criteria. Using an adapted checklist, methodological quality of the articles was assessed and consensus across studies was lacking. The three key factors found for Deaf mental health access challenges were: communication difficulties between mental health care providers and patients, Deaf adults’ inaccess to health care in their preferred language and poor health-related information in sign languages. The first factor was overall positively associated with professional interactions and consequently mental well-being of the Deaf. Some studies also found that certain Deaf adults were more likely to have positive professional interactions. The majority of studies were crosssectional. Some studies lacked appropriate control groups and did not recruit an appropriate range of informants. Several factors were associated with professional communications between Deaf persons and mental health providers, majority of who are Hearing. The role of communication showed the highest consensus across studies. Other factors were involved in further complex interactions such as Deaf cultural aspects. A Deaf-centric type of study on stigma is recommended to identify Deaf-friendly mental health care in Kenya.

Keywords: Deaf, Kenya, mental health access, communication

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