The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is a 24/7, year-round, confidential, multi-lingual crisis counseling and emotional support resource for survivors, responders, and anyone in the U.S./territories struggling with distress or other mental health concerns related to any natural or human-caused disaster. Calls and texts to 1-800-985-5990 are answered by trained counselors from a network of independently operated crisis centers located across the country.
The DDH Videophone (“DDH VP”) offers a 24/7 direct connection to trained DDH counselors fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). People who are Deaf, hard of hearing, (“HoH”) or anyone for whom ASL is their primary or preferred language can dial the DDH hotline 1-800-985-5990 via their videophone-enabled device OR access the “ASL Now” option via the DDH website.
While most people impacted by disaster will be able to bounce back fairly quickly with help from their support networks, others may experience significant emotional distress or other mental health concerns that can impede recovery. Deaf and hard of hearing people may be especially at risk for disaster-related distress. Barriers to accessibility for mental healthcare, emergency preparedness, and disaster relief services are just a few distress risk factors that Deaf/HoH people face throughout the disaster cycle.
In addition, the vast majority of crisis hotlines are set up to accommodate hearing, not Deaf/HoH, callers. While video Relay connections can offer 3rd-party interpretation between ASL users and hearing counselors, the responding counselor still may not fully understand the needs or be able to communicate effectively via the interpreter, especially if the caller is in crisis. While crisis chat and text services can seem like a sufficient alternative to hearing hotlines, Deaf people might understandably assume that responding chat/text counselors may not understand their needs as Deaf individuals, and therefore may be resistant in accessing these options.
The DDH VP is intended for American Sign Language users, regardless of fluency level or whether they are fully Deaf or hard of hearing. The common denominator is that ASL is the language being used between the caller & counselor. Callers who cannot communicate at all in ASL should not use the DDH VP. These callers should call or text the DDH 1-800-985-5990 via their standard phone device.
The national Disaster Distress Helpline is a network of independently operated crisis centers located across the United States. DeafLEAD is the not-for-profit crisis center that staffs and responds to DDH VP calls, 24/7/365. DeafLEAD’s mission is to “provide individuals who are Deaf and hard of hearing with comprehensive, unified and continuous support by enhancing socio-emotional development, effective communication and leadership through education.” Learn more about DeafLEAD.
Sometimes callers to the Disaster Distress Helpline Videophone (“DDH VP”) may not get through on the first try because of high call volume, or might get disconnected because of poor WiFi or cellphone service, etc. If you experience any technical difficulties when connecting to the DDH VP, first try calling or connecting again. Sometimes it may take 1 or 2 attempts to get through. If you’re attempting to connect through the “ASL Now Link” at the DDH website, and you are not able to get through, you can try connecting from a different browser for the 2nd attempt (for example, if the first time you tried was through Google Chrome, for the 2nd attempt, try Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox). If for whatever reason you’re still not able to get through and you’re wanting to connect with the DDH as quickly as possible, you can also try texting to 1-800-985-5990; your text will likely be answered by a hearing DDH crisis worker, and they are still trained to support anyone experiencing distress or other mental health concerns.
The DDH is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA; a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and is administered by the nonprofit Vibrant Emotional Health; Vibrant also administers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) for SAMHSA, of which the DDH is a sub-network. Learn more about SAMHSA and Vibrant.