Among the 18 people who were killed Lewiston, Maine, mass shooting The shooting spree on October 25th involved four deaf men who made a difference seems to be the worst mass shooting of deaf people in US history.
It is a tragedy that has not only affected the close-knit community of the deaf and hard of hearing in deep sadness in Maine, but has also reverberated nationally and served as a stark reminder of the needs and vulnerabilities of this population in times of crisis.
“When a deaf person in the community is hurt, everyone feels the pain. When one person is affected, it permeates every one of us,” says Megan Erasmus, clinical therapist and executive director of National Deaf Therapy, tells Yahoo Life via email. “Our deaf community is incredibly close-knit and connected. It’s very likely that even across the country we either know this person personally or are connected to someone who knows them. Our closeness to one another is intimate and the impact is undeniably profound.” .
“As a result,” she adds, “the impact of a tragedy can be more profound because individuals may have personal relationships with those affected. The loss can have a profound impact on the community and increase trauma.”
Many in the deaf community say that was certainly true in the days since the massacre, in which the gunman shot people at a bowling alley and a bar (the latter of which had nine deaf cornhole players). had gathered for a tournament) before he was found dead. It has provoked not only sadness, but also anger and frustration at the widespread lack of understanding of what it takes to make emergency warnings accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“It is important to recognize that the experiences of deaf people during mass shootings or tragedies may actually be unique and different than the experiences of hearing people,” says Erasmus, whose organization focuses on accessible therapy in American Sign Language and offers free crisis counseling to anyone from the Shooting affected in Maine.
Here, experts discuss what is missing, what is needed and how it all feels.
The importance of clear communication
“Like other mass shootings, this terrible tragedy has shaken all communities to their core – but this one hits home deeply,” said Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaftells Yahoo Life in an email.
“The deaf communities are excited and eager to hear the latest information – unfortunately, the news did not feature on-camera interpreters,” says Rosenblum. “This needs to change to avoid further trauma to our communities.”
The presence of ASL interpreters on camera and clearly visible at all times for post-emergency news broadcasts is one of the key best practices required in a NAD opinion on the topic of barrier-free emergency management. But it’s not often noticed – which was a tragic irony, especially in this shooting that brought Joshua Seal to great notoriety as an ASL interpreter for briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic The man detained by Maine officers was among the victims last week.
1/Here’s the thing #Maine: It’s a small town with *very* long driveways.
As a result, many Mainers know someone who was directly or indirectly affected by the terrible events on Wednesday evening.
One of the victims was my friend and colleague Josh Seal. pic.twitter.com/K1xJ4D1Dxo
— Nirav D. Shah (@nirav_uscdc) October 27, 2023
It’s so remarkable when an interpreter actually gets equal airtime that Oscar winner Marlee Matlin mentioned it on Instagram over the weekend. I commend both CNN and Maine Governor Janet Millswho embraced the interpreter, Regan Thibodeaua friend and associate of Seal, at the start of a press conference.
And closed captions, which are available on many televisions, are not enough, emphasizes psychologist Stephanie Logan, CEO of DeafLEAD. “The most important thing to know and be clear about is that ASL is not English,” she tells Yahoo Life through an interpreter. “ASL is its own language. Even if the subtitles are included, they are in English. ASL is not a written or spoken language, and it requires an interpreter to produce it and be linguistically correct.”
Support after tragedy
The lack of clear communication in these cases can lead to another source of stress: isolation. Erasmus says: “One of the main causes of PTSD is the inability to process the situation immediately. Unfortunately, deaf people often feel a sense of isolation during and after the event due to a lack of accessible resources, support and communication. This hinders their ability to connect with others, seek help or access support services, which further increases feelings of trauma and suffering.”
Olivia Stein, director of videophone crisis services at DeafLEAD, who uses the pronouns them, shares that they felt a lot of this, even if it was indirectly related to a recent mass shooting where family members were present. “I withdrew from the larger community because I felt like we had to constantly fight,” Stein says of the experience. “It’s a battle every day to make sure we get the communications access we need, or the resources we need, or the help – just help – we need. So for those who have suffered loss from a mass.” For those who have witnessed such an incident, I can only imagine it feels even more isolating now. People may feel more withdrawn.”
Combined with the lack of ASL interpreters in the news, they add, this leaves the deaf community “feeling even more excluded.” So I think this can and will have a greater impact on mental health than their hearing peers. “
For this reason, access to mental health support and services is crucial, emphasizes Erasmus.
“Deaf people can face challenges accessing appropriate mental health support and services because not all providers in their area are Deaf or knowledgeable in ASL, which can lead to delays in the healing process,” she says, pointing out the statistics “are alarming as 60% of deaf people do not have access to mental health services and 90% of professionals are unable to provide adequate support due to geographical limitations. Most deaf Americans live in areas with mental health professional shortages, which is why it is critical for services like ours to exist.”
How hearing people can help
Stein urges hearing people not to give up in a disaster situation as a bystander trying to communicate with a deaf person who needs help.
“Don’t leave the situation,” they say. “Go on. Do your best. Really put in three times as much effort to give that person the support they need… because when you refocus on helping someone else, it’s a little bit easier.” [to understand], then we fall by the wayside and have to take care of ourselves. We want to work with you, but of course we need your willingness to face this hurdle. Just as we as deaf people are faced with the barrier every day.
Logan adds that advocating for more ASL interpreters in any way possible is another way to provide support. “I would ask for support from the deaf community in terms of…actually having an interpreter on the screen…so that the deaf community has the same access to the information as everyone else.”