Deaf Community Accountability and Mental Illness

From The Silent Grapevine:

With HUGE thanks to The Silent Grapevine and author, Thomsen Young!  Please spread the word around by sharing the above link.

Deaf Community Accountability and Mental Illness

What are the ongoing issues related to mental illness within a deaf population?

Often, this issue, within the deaf population, has been thrown under the rug. Creating awareness is a difficult struggle since it is often not fully understood of the ramifications of how deep mental illness is within the deaf community. Only a few people fully understand the ramifications of mental illness within the deaf community, but they too, are having a difficult time getting the message out. The other issue is that deaf community is also in denial about mental illness within their community. It is rarely discussed. It is rarely debated. Most people consider it a non-issue, until, that is, someone they know/knew struggled with it in front of their very own eyes.
In a very public video, Terrylene Sachett, overwhelmed with grief explains the struggles that even her own son had with mental illness.
She signs in her video,

“The challenges of battling the darkness became a cycle of normalcy, health and well-being offset by periods of mental health concerns. At first, the periods of concerns were minimal and brief in contrast to the periods of well-being. But eventually, the balance shifted and the periods of darkness became more and more prevalent, while the periods of normalcy and well-being diminished. “

For most people within the deaf community, they grew up with Gianni Manganelli. Or they knew of him since the deaf community is extremely small. For the majority of the population and some of Gianni friends, his death was shocking; however, for those who really knew him, his close friends and family, understood that he was struggling with something much more deeper than himself.
Terrylene Sachett goes on signing,

“But by him putting an end of the relentless torment, it was ultimately that very darkness that took his life from him. With that understanding, what do we do now? We all must understand that WE must change. We must look closely at ourselves and ask ourselves, what can I do? What can we do? How can we as a community take accountability for this? What would community accountability mean? What would it look like? What would it be?”

How should community accountability look like? It is difficult to discuss difficult issues within one’s’ community, however, might it be best to talk about it? This issue should be discussed in an open atmosphere and discuss how we can improve mental illness.
According to Sandra Mueller, LCSW, she wrote that,

“To understand the prevalence of mental illness in the deaf community, several common statistics were found. The prevalence of mental illness among deaf people is at least as high as in the population at large (UCSF, 2004). Furthermore, findings reveal that the rate of Axis I mental health disorders does not differ between hearing and deaf populations, but Axis II and childhood behavior problems are three to six times more prevalent for deaf persons. Deaf children and adolescents exhibit higher levels of behavioral and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders then the general population (Haskins 2000 & Chritchfield, 2002). The prevalence of mental health issues in the deaf community is as significant as in the population at large, thus, emphasizing the need to examine the some unique factors impacting deaf people living with mental illness.”

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the deaf community struggles with getting mental health care because of “significant health disparities and is often excluded from health surveillances, outreach programs and mass media health care messages.”
They list several factors why these disparities exist today:
1) First, members of the deaf community may have limited medical and mental health knowledge because they have not had direct access to health information during their primary and secondary education, which may result in less help-seeking behavior.
2) Some members of the deaf community visit their doctors and mental health professionals less often, in part, due to limited access to direct communication.
3) Many health care settings do not provide certified and qualified medical and mental health interpreters.
4) Deaf ASL users often embody a unique culture that is unfamiliar to most medical and mental health care providers. This lack of cultural- and linguistic-competency on the part of the professional often results in higher rates of inaccurate evaluations, misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatments.
This issue should no longer be thrown under the rug; this issue should be the #1 discussion and debate within the deaf community. The deaf community also should advocate for themselves to get assistance from their local, state and federal government and look into mandating change to make sure that people who are deaf are getting ALL the necessary treatment for their mental illness.
By creating debate and having hard, difficult discussions about this topic, we can, together as a community, find the answers to Terrylene’s questions and, hopefully, create a more, informed and healthy community.
Let’s get this discussion started.

Gio’s Sayings – Culled from his Facebook

All this time I thought the true issue was about disclosure of extraterrestrial life. It never was about that. It was always about the oil.

Buy gold! Just a gram a month will do it’s only $56 a gram!

Rubber bung fell into one of the jars and I had to spend all morning trying to fish it out with a coat hanger -_-; ‘dem kids giving me a hard time.

1. Any girl who wants to be my girlfriend must have an ambition to do Kung Fu with me. That is dead certain.

Keep your eyes to the skies.

Someday, far in the future, people will remember the struggles of deaf people fighting a world of ignorance and equate them to the likes of the great battles for civil rights, and against slavery.

Stay happy

If I had my guitar I’d play me some blues.

Statement from Gallaudet University


March 31, 2014

Dear Campus Community:

With profound sadness, I report the passing of Gianni Manganelli, a 23-year-old undergraduate student, on Sunday morning, March 30th. Gianni was an Academic Bowl standout for four years at University High School in Irvine, California, winning regional Most Outstanding Player awards in 2006, 2007, and 2009. He also was named Most Outstanding Player at the 2009 National Academic Bowl. After graduating from University High School, Gianni attended Rochester Institute of Technology, and was a member of the NTID-RIT College Bowl team in 2010.

Before and during his study at RIT, Gianni had several internships. Under the supervision of the noted astrophysicist Dr. Jeffrey D. Cooke, at the time a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Cosmology at the University of California, Irvine, Gianni completed a month-long internship at the W. M. Keck Observatory, a two-telescope astronomical observatory at 13,600 feet near the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai’i. He also taught American Sign Language at Deaf Japan in Osaka. He was passionate about languages, and not only learned Japanese Sign Language, but learned to read and speak Japanese as well.

Gianni is survived by his mother, Terrylene Sacchetti; his father; Robert Manganelli; and his sister, Catalene Sacchetti-Manganelli, a student at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. Information about services and memorial tributes will be shared at a later time.

 Tragedies such as this touch us all. Any Gallaudet University community member in need of support can contact the Mental Health Center or the Employee Assistance Program.


Gallaudet University students may make an appointment for confidential services at the Mental Health Center by coming to the center, calling202-651-6080 TTY/voice/videophone during business hours, or emailing The Mental Health Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Mental Health Center is located on the third floor of the Kellogg Conference Hotel. The Mental Health Center staff is also on call for emergencies and can be accessed through Coordinators of Residence Education or the Department of Public Safety.


Gallaudet University employees may obtain confidential services from APS Healthcare, Gallaudet’s Employee Assistance Program. To talk to a counselor or arrange an appointment, staff and faculty can call 877-344-0489 (TTY) or 800-607-1522 (voice). For more information on services available from APS Healthcare, including topics on coping with grief, employees can access the APS Healthcare web site Enter the code GALLY on the APSHelplink.


For helpful information on coping with grief, see the following online resources:

Please join me in mourning Gianni’s untimely passing, and in expressing our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.


Stephen F. Weiner

Office of the Provost
Gallaudet University
800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002
202-651-5085 voice
202-250-2071 videophone
202-651-5372 facsimile