Coalition of Deaf Mental Health Professionals

Meet the Board

The members of the Coalition of Deaf Mental Health Professionals board is largely made up of volunteers from a wide variety of fields within the Deaf community. The board gets together once monthly to discuss current issues and how they can make suggestions for improvements.


Photo of Rachel CoppageRachel Coppage (Chairperson)

Born Deaf and brought up orally in England when sign language was banned, Rachel had undergone a dramatic life changing experience as an AFS student with a Deaf host family in the United States. She returned to England with a culturally Deaf identity and has never looked back since.

She has worked with vulnerable Deaf citizens particularly those with mental health needs in a variety of positions;

  • with Harding Housing Association, London as care and support worker and occupational activities officer
  • with CYFS and Social Work Services, Christchurch, NZ
  • with National Deaf Services, London and with the National High Secure Deaf Service at Rampton Hospital, Nottinghamshire
  • with Spark Centre of Creative Development as Arts Facilitator
  • with Mt Tabor as facilitator of Deaf Day Programme

As a qualified art psychotherapist at MA level, she has been interested in offering her services for Deaf people in the forensic sector and lobbying for access to Deaf people in prison who are in need for therapeutic intervention.

She recognises the significance of a healthy bi-lingual and bi-cultural identity when you can move between the Deaf world and the rest of society with ease and assertiveness. Deaf people are at greater risk of acquiring a personality disorder or experiencing abuse than the general population. Hence art psychotherapy is offered to the Deaf community with a containing space where they can express their feelings and enact their experiences in confidence.

Since immigrating to New Zealand in 2007, Rachel has become very active in the local and national Deaf communities, having previously served on the Executive Board of Deaf Aotearoa (formerly named the Deaf Association of New Zealand), on the Board of Deaf Education Aotearoa NZ (now dissolved) and as vice president of Auckland Parents of Deaf Children. She is currently the Chair of the Coalition of Deaf Mental Health Professionals.


Photo of Chris BlumChris Blum (Board member)

In 2002 to 2003, Chris worked in the mental health field acquiring a depth of experience in how Deaf and hearing-impaired people face difficulties and hardship in this context. Today Chris gives his time on a voluntary basis to Deaf mental health.

Chris has contributed to the Deaf community through voluntary work as he has been on the Kelston Deaf Education Centre board for seven years and currently a board member for the ‘Coalition of Deaf Mental Health Professionals’ and the Auckland Disability Law group steering committee .

He also comes with a background of knowledge and experience. Chris, for example, worked for Deaf Aotearoa (Deaf Association 1994 to 2001) implementing the FYD leadership programme bringing it to NZ from the UK. This initiative was to give Deaf youth an opportunity to learn about leadership on a practical and theoretical basis and to learn to work in teams. The end goal was to empower Deaf and hearing impaired youth to become leaders in their own Deaf community.

Chris is still actively involved in the Deaf Community (business and personally). He is also very much a family man, married to Sarah (Deaf) with two daughters, Zara and Madeleine and involved in their education and sporting activities.


Daniel Hanks (Board member)

Graduated as a qualified NZSL Interpreter from AUT in 1995, while also working as a keyworker at Framewotk Trust residential services. Worked in Auckland, beginning with 3 years working for Disability Services AUT interpreting in tertiary settings and doing community interpreting, mainly in the areas of counselling and anger management.

1999 Daniel commenced lecturing on the AUT interpreter programme, a role he continued until 2007. In 2000 he became programme leader and undertook a redevelopment, culminating in the current Visual Languages Section. The changes included creating and validating the Certificate in NZSL and Deaf Studies, enabling the interpreting Diploma to run annually. 1998-2002 served on the committee of the Sign Language Interpreters Association of NZ, including as President in 2000-2002.

Established an independant interpreting service (AIMS) in 2003 to partner with the Deaf Mental Health Service, in order to develop and refine interpreting in mental health settings. Co-produced the most comprehensive NZSL resource for mental health: “Road to Recovery” – based on the Oranga Ngakau handbook published by the Mental Health Foundation. Consulted on the NZSL Bill relting to interpreter standards.

Created Connect Interpreting Ltd in 2011, a professional interpreting practice, with long-time collaborator Lynx. Connect continues to champion best practice in mental health interpreting.

Daniel also works with Deafradio, a technology think-tank and service provider to the Deaf and other access communities. Deafradio services include Multichannel Media, Seeflow, Infowave, and the recently launched SignDNA archive.


Geoff Bridgman (Board member)

Sorry, the profile for this member is not quite ready and will be available shortly.


Linda Guirey (Board member)

Linda Guirey (previously Hall) was the first manager of the Deaf Mental Health Service in 2001. Linda established the service, developed networks, relationships and awareness within the wider mental health sector. During that time, Linda and her team were successful in winning a national mental health award and were finalists in NZ’s inaugural Health Innovation Awards. It was also during this time that Linda secured funding to expand the service to Wellington and the surrounding areas. Linda has also played a pivotal role in the development of a NZSL DVD about Mental Health and Deafness, and also a NZSL DVD about Domestic Violence.

Linda left the Deaf Mental Health Service in mid 2004, and continued in the Health & Disability sector, securing a job as the Manager of the Disability Resource Centre in Royal Oak and then become Training Manager for Shine – NZ’s largest domestic violence agency. It was here that Linda identified the importance of having a NZSL DVD about domestic violence and was successful in securing funding for the project. In 2010, Linda set up her own speaking and training business – with a focus on attitudes, beliefs and choices, and has become an award-winning trainer and public speaker.

Linda is an integral part of the Coalition of Deaf Mental Health Professionals, and brings with her a wealth of knowledge in establishing the DMH service, and achieving many successes along the way. Linda also attends the Community of Practice meetings and is passionate and committed to ensuring that Deaf Mental Health services in New Zealand are appropriately funded and supported to grow and to provide important services to the Deaf community.


Catriona Sainsbury (Co-ordinator)

Catriona Sainsbury (Cat) is the Coordinator of the Coalition which has been both a challenging and rewarding experience. Cat’s connection to Deaf worlds arose from attending a university with a strong Deaf profile in the UK inspiring a degree in Deaf Studies and many close personal friendships with Deaf students.

Cat subsequently worked in a Disability and Sensory Impairment Resource Centre moving on to manage a supported housing scheme for adults with severe and enduring mental health issues alongside a homeless hostel and floating support community based service. Personal associations have given Cat further insight into the challenges associated with experiencing mental health problems and evoked her interest in finding out about the needs of Deaf people.

On moving to NZ in 2007 Cat worked for the former Deaf mental health service in Lower Hutt whilst completing an MA in Social Work through Massey University. She chose to explore best practice in mental health; working with Deaf people, for her thesis based upon data gathered from interviews with Deaf practitioners and clients.

On hearing of the service closures in 2010 Cat worked alongside Deaf Aotearoa to raise Governmental awareness of the critical need for culturally founded Deaf services and has continued to lobby on this issue since this time whilst raising a young family.