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American Sign Language crisis line provides 'connection with someone who understands'

A group of people weating black DeafLEAD shirts smile at the camera.
Rebecca Smith
Dr. Stephanie Logan is the CEO of DeafLEAD, which advocates for Deaf and hard of hearing people across the country. DeafLEAD now supports "six crisis lines, many volunteers and interns, over 200 employees in 29 states, and an array of services for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late-Deafened, DeafBlind and DeafDisabled victims of crime," as well as the new ASL 988 crisis line.

Dr. Stephanie Logan is the CEO of DeafLEAD, a Columbia-based group that advocates for and supports the Deaf and hard of hearing community.

DeafLEAD is of the two providers in the country for a new video phone service that will offer crisis counseling and American Sign Language through 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. She spoke about why offering crisis services in a Deaf person's native language is important.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words.

Stephanie Logan:  It's a huge difference. Number one, it's accessible for Deaf people who use ASL, are Deaf, hard of hearing – like the whole group of people that identify as a person with a hearing loss or use ASL as their first language to communicate or want to use ASL to communicate in a crisis.

ASL – American sign language – is not English. It's a separate language of its own. [It] has its own grammar, syntax, structure, everything.

And so, one of the struggles that people have is – if you meet a person that's Spanish – using Spanish as their first language and you have an interpreter who's interpreting into English – you don't assume that Spanish is English just because the interpreter is interpreting what they say into English.

You know, you've learned that Spanish is a separate language from English.

So, we have Spanish 988 access for people to do with chat, text and phone, because we know it's a separate language.


ASL is a separate language and so, recognizing that and providing this line is – it's just incredible. It's really recognizing the need to provide a separate crisis line for the Deaf community, and I'm thrilled.

It's that connection, it's that connection that you feel when – there's a sign where it – in sign language – where it's like, I understand and you understand, we get it, like we get it, and we connect.

And when I'm talking about something that relates to my experience as a Deaf person and the other person is Deaf too and understands, you know, that experience as a Deaf person – there's a connection that no other person that's not had that experience that you can really relate too, right?

"We need that connection with someone who understands our experience."
Dr. Stephanie Logan

I'll say another thing, you know, my 20 year-old-son passed away last year, in March, and it was, it was devastating. It was the worst possible thing – to fentanyl poisoning, and I will tell you, that the people that I connected with the most were mothers that had lost their sons, you know, they really understood, there was this mutual understanding.

And so, the grief support that I've received through this last year and a half – I have wonderful friends and wonderful family, but the best support that I've received is through that connection with other mothers who have lost their children.

So, I'll say that in the Deaf community, we need that connection with someone who understands our experience.

If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.

Si tú o alguien que conoces necesita apoyo, llama al 988.

For the full transcript of this radio episode, click here.

Anna Spidel is a health reporter for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. A proud Michigander, Anna hails from Dexter, Michigan and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Michigan State University in 2022. Previously, she worked with member station Michigan Radio as an assistant producer on Stateside.
Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.