Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Karen Lahm (Committee Member), Dennis Moore (Committee Member), David Orenstein (Committee Chair), Julie Williams (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Since 2008, the Deaf Off Drugs and Alcohol (DODA) Program has provided culturally appropriate cessation and recovery support services via e-therapy to Deaf/HH individuals with a clinically diagnosed substance use disorder (SUD). The information collected by the DODA program presented an opportunity to study the relationship between delayed language acquisition and suicidal ideation and attempts in a population that has historically been understudied, yet has increased prevalence in both suicidal behavior and significantly delayed language acquisition compared to the general population. Of the 107 prelingually Deaf consumers in the program, 18 reported language acquisition later than age ten. This study proposed that manifestations of this delay may contribute to known risk factors for suicidal behavior as well as adaptive communication in the form of suicidal gestures and parasuicide. As hypothesized, the lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts increased with substance use disorder or mental illness. Suicide attempts were also higher in this sample than studies suggest with comorbidity of substance use disorder and co-occurring mental illness. Each of these factors was amplified among those participants with significantly delayed language acquisition. Although caution should be exercised when comparing these results with the hearing population, they underscore the need for increased attention and further inquiry.

Page Count


Department or Program

Applied Behavioral Science

Year Degree Awarded