Deaf community gets free crisis hotline of its own

November 16, 2016

Author: Andrew Greenman, '10

This press release was issued by Crisis Text Line. To view the Crisis Text Line story published by University Communications in June 2016, click here.

NEW YORK - November 14, 2016 -​ ​Crisis Text Line​, a free, 24/7 text-messaging support line for people in crisis, announces the launch of a partnership with Gallaudet University and the Deaf community. Starting today, Deaf people will be able to text the word DEAF to 741741 and be connected with a Crisis Counselor.

"The efforts by Crisis Text Line to ensure that their services are accessible to and appropriate for the deaf community is commendable," said ​Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano​. "Historically, deaf people in need of mental health and emergency/crisis services have had to deal with the additional stress and frustration of finding accessible services. Technology has helped in this manner, but it is also important that mental health and emergency/crisis services staff members are properly trained in working with deaf and hard of hearing clients. I am pleased that Gallaudet staff and students are involved in this critical work."

Many studies show that Deaf people confront mental and behavioral health issues at significantly higher rates than the hearing population. For example, the American Psychological Association reports higher rates of depression and anxiety in the Deaf community, and notes that this population has limited access to appropriate mental health care.

About a year ago, Crisis Text Line noticed that it was receiving texts from many deaf people--and the data was disturbing. Texters self-identifying as deaf are nearly twice as likely to mention depression and nearly twice as likely to mention suicide.

Crisis Text Line noticed another phenomenon--more than a dozen Deaf people had applied and successfully become Crisis Counselors. The organization notes that only 39% of people who apply to be Crisis Counselors are accepted and successfully complete the training.

"We're thrilled to welcome deaf texters," said ​Nancy Lublin, Founder & CEO of Crisis Text Line​. "And we're fiercely proud to have so many deaf people in the role of hero, thriving as Crisis Counselors who help other people navigate pain."

Crisis Text Line has approached its work with the Deaf with both its texters and its Crisis Counselors in mind by seeking advice from experts. An Advisory Committee was formed and two members of the community were hired to advise the organization. California State University - Northridge has also advised on the keyword launch and will be participating in marketing the service. Steps were taken to make the volunteer training more accessible. Training content on cultural competency with Deaf and hard of hearing texters was developed and made available to all Crisis Counselors.

Most recently, the organization hired its first full-time Deaf staff member, Tiffany Bridgett. In addition to leading Crisis Text Line's Deaf and hard of hearing outreach, Bridgett will be a Crisis Counselor Supervisor. Bridgett is a clinical psychology Ph.D. student at Gallaudet University, and volunteered for Crisis Text Line for eight months before being hired.

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.

Crisis Text Line is help at your fingertips, 24/7, for free, and anonymous.