272061 A Message Just for Deaf People: Public Service Announcements on Depression in American Sign Language

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 4:33 PM - 4:36 PM

Amanda Ohearn, PhD , Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Robert Pollard, PhD , Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY
A 60-second PSA features critical information about depression symptoms and the importance of seeking help early. Suicide is mentioned as one possible outcome of untreated depression. The spot features a deaf woman who is withdrawing from her deaf friends, isolating herself at home. “When one suffers, we all suffer” is the tag line associated with this spot as well as the campaign as a whole (although the translation of that line in ASL is a bit different). The second spot features an ethnically diverse cast and appearances by four local deaf professionals – a radiologist, a lawyer, a veterinarian, and a priest. The message is that deaf and hearing people alike can be high achieving but that deaf and hearing people also can become depressed and in need of treatment. This PSA was edited into both 30 and 45-second lengths, allowing broadcasters to chose which of the three PSAs (30, 45, or 60-second) would best suit their broadcast schedules. All three PSAs feature closed-captions in English. However, the creative decision was made to have no soundtrack on any of the spots. Our goal in this decision was to capture the attention of hearing people (including hearing individuals in families with deaf members) who would suddenly notice that their TV has gone silent. In addition to the ASL communication, all three PSAs featured references to common deaf experiences such as a flashing light to indicate a ringing doorbell which also played into the concept of a brightly flashing alert that opens all three spots: “A message just for deaf people.” All three ads also present contact information for the DWC at the end and the APF and Ad Council logos.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
The Deaf Wellness Center (DWC), a program of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center led an effort to raise Deaf community awareness of depression and the importance of early help-seeking through the production of three television public service announcements. The PSAs featured deaf actors communicating exclusively in American Sign Language (ASL), including Linda Bove, a national deaf television personality (from Sesame Street). These unique PSAs were filmed and broadcast without any soundtrack (but they are closed-captioned.) We were not aware of any prior effort to reach out to the Deaf community in such a manner, especially via commercial television. Participants will be able to differentiate Public Service Announcements meant for an audience that uses American Sign Language from an English speaking audience.

Keywords: Mental Health, Deaf

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been involved in the production, writing and/or development of approximately 14 films geared toward deaf audiences ranging from videos teaching mental health skills to films explaining informed consent. For 10 years I have been involved in mental health and health research regarding deaf populations with a special interest in preventing suicide.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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