Since its inaugural institute in 2003, MHIT has proven to be one of the most highly regarded annual mental health interpreting trainings for interpreters and allied professions working within the ASL/Deaf community. This institute was developed as a result of a lawsuit in 2001 (Bailey v. Sawyer), which was settled. Part of the settlement required the State of Alabama Department of Mental Health (ALDMH) to provide access and specialized care for Deaf mental health patients. Additionally, ALDMH was required to establish five regional offices throughout the state and an inpatient Deaf unit at Bryce State Hospital located in Tuscaloosa. It also required interpreters who work in mental health settings to test and receive certification as a Qualified Mental Health Interpreter (QMHI) with ALDMH and maintain forty annual training hours to keep their certification. At this time, MHIT remains the only program in the nation that focuses on mental health interpreting.
This week-long training is an incredible asset for certified interpreters who already work in healthcare settings. The training builds on the knowledge and application of several topics already important to healthcare such as Demand-Control theory, psychopharmacology, co-occurring disorders, treatment methods, etiologies of Deafness, language dysfluency and many others. It also allows interpreters to deepen their knowledge of patient/provider encounters. A few examples include: family therapy sessions, interpreting AA/NA meetings, attending inpatient treatment team discussions and assessing a recently incarcerated Deaf person to determine whether that person is able to acknowledge and understand the legal charges brought before him or her.
Interpreters who attend MHIT also gain access to a community of professionals with other attendees, the professional team of ALDMH staff members, presenters and alumni from past institutes, as well as the chance to meet current QMHIs. This network is crucial in the advancement of mental health interpreting standards across the country. A hallmark of MHIT is that it is not limited to hearing certified ASL interpreters but certified Deaf interpreters (CDIs) as well. CDIs are an integral part of communication access in all facets of interpreting with mental health ranking as one of the top environments that CDIs are necessary and crucial for patient comprehension and participation.
Mistie Owens, a certified Deaf interpreter (CDI) and QMHI, offers this about her perspective on mental health interpreter training: “It has impacted not only my life, but my work, my daily relationships, my world-view, my interactions and my level of awareness about what I do when I am in a variety of settings.” In other words, everything she has gained as a CDI increased hundredfold on every plane after her attendance at the 13th Institute (2015) and QMHI certification in the same year. She believes that CDIs have much to gain by attending MHIT, and what they can contribute and glean from the training carries over into their lives as professionals and as Deaf consumers, friends, family members and associates.
InDemand Interpreting prides itself on the provision of specialized healthcare interpreters in both spoken and ASL languages. Currently, at least five of our ASL interpreters and CDIs have attended MHIT. Further, several people from the InDemand Interpreting team will be attending the 15th MHIT this summer. The potential for improved access and specialized interpreting skills in mental health work following this training will benefit not only the interpreters but the patients and providers that InDemand Interpreting serves.