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As part of an ambitious project to break barriers for the deaf community, Crisis Text Line, a non-profit organization that aims to answer texts from people who need emotional support during times of crisis, joined collaboration efforts with Gallaudet’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) department, leading to the addition of three student volunteers.

“As the Director of CAPS, I was delighted when Jared Wolf from Crisis Text Line contacted us to gather information about providing services for deaf and hard of hearing clients,” said Lauri Rush, director, Counseling and Psychological Services, Mental Health Center. “More often than not, we are reaching out to ‘hearing’ agencies asking them to provide accessible services for our students and the deaf community.

This is one of the first times an agency has initiated by reaching out to us asking how to improve their services to the deaf community.”

Wolf, a crisis counselor trainer and user support specialist at Crisis Text Line, actively recruited over 30 deaf and hard of hearing volunteers for the project. CAPS invited Wolf to the Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention walk at Gallaudet, in April 2016, to participate and recruit Gallaudet students volunteer.

Wolf explains how internal observations within Crisis Text Line led him to reach out to CAPS.

“We didn’t initially set out to be a service for people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said Wolf. “We discovered that people from these communities were already using our service and applying to be volunteers before we even knew anything about Deaf Culture or their needs. Since then, it’s been my goal to help equip Crisis Text Line to provide fully accessible and culturally competent care to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Tiffany Bridgett, E-’14 and Grady Gallagher, ’11, part of the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at Gallaudet, serve Crisis Text Line as student volunteers.

“I’m inspired to be a part of the Crisis Text Line, where I can reach out to people in all sorts of crises, and be a person they can count on to sit with them during their darkest hours,” said Gallagher. “Because it’s a texting service, I can bring in deaf and/or hard of hearing people to join our growing and supportive community. Deaf people of all types experience a variety of stress levels unique to them. Instead of them having to go through an interpreter, they can just text us and be empowered to find the strength within themselves to keep going.”

“I cannot begin to imagine how many deaf and hard of hearing people have been deprived of help before Crisis Text Line,” said Bridgett. “I cannot imagine how many children could not call for help while experiencing abuse at home. I cannot imagine how many teenagers were too afraid to make a live call asking for a stranger to help them find a reason to live. Texting provides people the privacy and comfort of asking help when they’re experiencing a crisis. In short, I hope Crisis Text Line can help the deaf community become healthier and less restricted from mental health resources.”

Rush recognized the lack of accessible services for the deaf community in general and applauded Crisis Text Line for taking initiative.

Crisis Text Line fills in a gap, as there has been a paucity of mental health services and certainly a lack of accessible hotlines for the deaf community,” said Rush.

Crisis Text Line has volunteers manning the text lines on a 24 hour, seven days a week basis. To date, Crisis Text Line has more than 19 million messages processed. Their services are free to everyone.

For more information about Crisis Text Line, click here. If you have a crisis and need to reach out, text START to 741-741 for free (standard text messaging rates may apply).

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