Americans Who Are Deaf Can Now Use 988 Suicide Helpline

The services use a videophone device that transmits video and audio

HealthDay News  — The US government’s 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is expanding its reach to help more people. The crisis line has now launched services in American Sign Language (ASL) to help callers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The ASL services were launched on Friday, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

“Individuals across America who use ASL as their primary language can now readily access the support they need during a mental health crisis,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in an agency news release. “With the introduction of 988 ASL services, we are taking a significant stride forward in providing inclusive and accessible support for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

The services use a videophone device that transmits video and audio. It can be reached by clicking “ASL Now” on Callers can alternatively call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) but will soon also be able to directly dial to 988 by videophone.

“After years of advocacy to ensure that 988 is available to everyone not only through voice calls, but also texting and video for sign language users, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is thrilled that the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is now available to use through video calls in sign language,” said NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum. “We encourage anyone going through a crisis or thinking about suicide to contact 988 in any way preferred — voice, text, or sign language.”

The new move is part of an ongoing effort by the HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to add accessibility to behavioral health care. An earlier update added Spanish-speaking services by text and chat.

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