I’m excited to be attending the upcoming United Way CEO 2-1-1 Summit and Community Leadership Conferences next week in Orlando! Of the many big ideas and opportunities we can advance collectively, some of my favorites are those that contribute to 2-1-1’s operating as a coordinated national network, and that increase our relevance in key areas like social determinants of health. I’m looking forward to formal presentations and “hallway talks” about:
Deeper engagements with medical and behavioral health entities
Technology standards to harmonize the distribution of social and human services data to trusted partners
Coordination of the National Texting Platform
Greater use of “syndromic survellience” (love that term) to alert our leaders to emerging crises and issues
If these topics are of interest to you too, please let’s make sure we connect in a session or during a break to explore how we can advance 2-1-1’s overall, and your 2-1-1 network in particular, in the near term.
May 1st marks the beginning of Mental Health Month. It’s a fitting time for all mental health advocates to recommit ourselves to spreading awareness and education, and opening ourselves to our own further enlightenment on the subject.
A number of well-known organizations are celebrating the month with valuable information on their website and social media feeds. Here are just a few:
Mental Health America has a Mental Health Month Toolkit available for download on their website. Their theme this year is “Risky Business” which encourages people to be aware and mindful of habits and behaviors that may increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illness.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reminds us of the prevalence of mental health conditions, affecting 1 in 5 Americans, and how those conditions impact friends and family as well. Their #IntoMentalHealth campaign encourages discussion and advocacy for awareness and reduction of stigma and prejudice.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) urges us to #GetLoud as they celebrate Mental Health Week from May 1st through 8th. Going further than just reflecting on one’s mental health, CMHA encourages Canadians to demand the services, programs, and respect necessary to be well by getting loud and writing to members of parliament, speaking out on social media and in public, and donating time and money.
The National Council for Behavioral Health is promoting three key topics through infographics available on their website. These include Women’s Mental Health, Super Skills to Help a Friend, and a graphic that helps decipher whether a teen’s behavior may be part of their normal development or a warning sign of mental illness.
Undeniably one of the hottest topics in the field of mental health and suicide prevention right now is the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” which has generated some praise and a lot of criticism for its portrayal of teen suicide. While many argue that it’s doing a good thing by bringing the topic out into the open in such a huge way, others worry that its methods are unethical, that it discourages teens from seeking help from adults and professionals, and that it romanticizes suicide and presents it in a harmfully graphic way. School systems across North America have sent home letters advising parents of the series’ popularity and are encouraging adults watch the show to assess its appropriateness for their teen and to protect youth who may be particularly vulnerable to its content, as well as watching it with teens to prompt discussion and processing of the content. For its part, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention held a webinar on the topic, which quickly booked up. They’re promoting awareness of risk factors and warning signs as a part of Mental Health Month and have made the webinar recording available for viewing.
We hope these resources will help you spread the word about Mental Health Month. Is your organization holding an event or do you have your own content to share? We’d be happy to help you spread the word, just leave us a comment below!
We’ll have a booth at the conference and you’ll see us at many of the events and sessions, too. It’s important to us to learn about and be aware of all the latest research and the expanding needs of helplines as they work to build suicide-safer communities.
We hope you’ll stop by our booth and let us know how things have been going for your organization, and tell us about the exciting initatives you’ve had going on. We’ll be available to answer any questions you may have about iCarol, and we’ll have some fun activities to check out that are brand new this year!
In particular we’d really enjoy hearing your feedback about the new iCarol Ideas Portal we recently released. We’re excited to hear from our users about how it’s going, what you like about it, and any other feedback you may have. So if you’ve used the Ideas Portal, we definitely want to see you!
With all the excitment and so much going on, the time at the conference goes by quickly, so please look us up at the conference, or
beforehand to schedule some time to chat so we’re sure not to miss the opportunity to see you!
We look forward to seeing you and learning about all the latest in the life-saving work being done by the helpline industry so that we can continue to build our systems to support you.
Following the success and positive feedback we received after last year’s iCarol Summit, we’d like to announce that on May 21st, the day before this year’s AIRS Conference officially kicks off in Tampa, Florida, our AIRS certified team members will again hold a User Group Summit at the same venue as the conference. Our Summit is an all-day event that includes training and informational sessions along with our traditional User Group session. While we do ask that you register to attend this even, there is no cost to participate.
This year we’re excited to cover the fundamentals for your I&R service, while also diving into topics we know are of increasing importance in your field. We’ll feature two main sessions to address both of these areas. Our first session of the day will focus on managing your resource database and the important basic tools such as editing, field visibility, filtering, managing regions, custom fields, verifying your records for accuracy, and more.
After a break for lunch (there are plenty of great choices for you to explore close to the conference venue) we’ll continue on learning about the growing need for services to participate in continuums of care within communities. Human service agencies can’t afford to operate in silos — they need to work together, communicate with one another, and share client information to ensure clients are engaging in the full spectrum of available services and that all providers are aware of their status and progress. Community organizations striving for this model often practice a “no wrong door” policy so that regardless of where a help-seeker begins their treatment journey, they’ll be able to smoothly enter the systems of care rather than getting turned around, improving their chances of success and greatly reducing the frustration or discouragement that they may encounter otherwise. In this session we’ll discuss potential ways your agency can become a leader in these care networks within your community using some unique strategies and iCarol tools.
Finally, we’ll end our day with a traditional User Group session to which all are invited, regardless if you registered and attended earlier sessions in the day. This is a chance to learn more about iCarol for those who may be considering use of our solution, and to hear more about our strategy, planned new features and enhancements in our product “roadmap.” Of course we’ll offer time for questions, comments, and discussion of challenges and priorities.
We’re working hard on prepping everything for our Summit as well as other fun and exciting activities at this year’s AIRS Conference. Don’t miss this chance to connect with us — our full agenda and other details are available by following the link below.
From April 2nd – 5th, iCarol Co-founders Jackie and Neil McKechnie will attend the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference in Seattle, Washington. Many of our friends and clients have encouraged us to attend and have spoken highly of the conference, the people and organizations it attracts and the fantastic learning opportunities it presents, so we’re looking forward to experiencing this first hand.
In case you are not yet familiar with this organization, the National Council for Behavioral Health with its 2,800 member organizations, is dedicating to serving millions of adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions. The cornerstone of their mission is to advocate for Americans’ access to comprehensive, high-quality care so that everyone has the tools needed for recovery. Many of you may also be familiar with their Mental Health First Aid program, a course that many of our users have not only taken, but their agencies often provide this training to their community. This highly impactful program has trained nearly 1 million people to play a role in helping someone experiencing a mental health or addictions emergency by providing immediate intervention and empathy while encouraging professional support. This program empowers all people, regardless of their personal field of expertise, to care for others and not ignore situations or feel powerless to help when they see mental health emergencies play out in front of them. It also highlights the importance of everyone having basic knowledge of mental health and addictions issues, which ultimately saves lives and reduces stigma.
We’re looking forward to learning more about this organization, attending some amazing sessions, and connecting with those in attendance to see how we might be able to work together. If you’re an iCarol user and you’re going to be there, we’d really love to connect so we can say “hi” and catch up with you, and perhaps grab a bite to eat or cup of coffee in between sessions. With this being such a large conference and knowing how much there is going on, it’d be great to plan ahead and schedule a time to connect and make sure we don’t miss one another. Please reach out to so we can find a time to meet up at what is sure to be a great event. See you in Seattle!
In case you don’t know him, our CTO Neil loves to code. And he also loves to address social challenges with technology. So when the University of San Francisco’s School of Management announced their one-day Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference and subsequent two-day Tech4Good Hackathon, he immediately signed up to make the short drive down to the event to see how he could help.
About 70 bright individuals arrived for the hackathon’s opening ceremony on Saturday morning and, one-by-one, introduced themselves to the group by announcing their skills, why they were there, and an idea for what problem they would like to see solved in ways that would have social impact.
In the ensuing hour, participants informally coalesced into the teams that would start building their entry into the hackathon’s competition, to be judged the next day by an esteemed panel of five high-tech executives from the Bay Area’s startup scene. By introducing himself as a “CTO, architect and full-stack developer” Neil was in high demand to join numerous of the 10 teams who hoped to have a useful, coded prototype to show about 24 hours later.
As he has a family member who could benefit from it, Neil settled on a team to build a web-based tool that replicates a “real world” tool that helps young learners with phonics, letter identification and word formation in their journey toward reading fluency. Each of his other three team members brought very useful ideas and skills and were amazed at how quickly they organized into a highly functional and productive group.
After more than a few energy drinks, late night coding sessions, and last minute changes, the team submitted their entry for judging on Sunday afternoon. Although Neil’s team didn’t win, he helped other teams throughout the weekend and was impressed with all of the final entries.
Although it was his first hackathon, we’re pretty sure it won’t be his last!
About the webinar: One of the biggest current issues in gaming is the legalization of sports gambling. Join Keith to learn more about the political, program and policy implications for the problem gambling field. Our monthly webinars have received great feedback and we are excited to continue this series.
Cost: While the webinars remain FREE for members, they are now open to non-members for the price of $59 per webinar. Become a member
Each year, February 11th is celebrated as 2-1-1 day throughout North America.
2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember three digit number, but unlike 4-1-1 for directory assistance or 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies, the focus of 2-1-1 is to provide people with comprehensive information and referral to various human services in their communities.
Rather than spend hours of frustration going it alone calling around to various agencies or surfing the web, help-seekers can make 2-1-1 their first call for assistance and speak to a trained specialist that can spend time evaluating their needs, educating them about resources, and then connect them with the appropriate services. These 2-1-1 agencies widen their reach by making their services available via chat, texting, and integrating their well-curated database of resources into their website. They also build partnerships with other providers by sharing their resource information and making it available to collaborators in a multitude of ways. Of course, iCarol is delighted to help a large percentages of 2-1-1s across Canada and the United States tap into these tools and innovation to help their communities.
iCarol is proud to be working with so many 211 providers whose organizations provide a vital service to their communities by connecting millions of people to essential services each year. If you work at a 2-1-1 and celebrated this day at your helpline, whether it’s just a small occasion or large outreach event, we want to hear from you! Send your stories and photos to so we can feature them on our blog and share your experiences with our readers and recognize your helpline.
Saturday, February 4, 2017 marks World Cancer Day. This year’s theme, “We Can. I Can.” was chosen to inspire individuals and communities to take actions to help prevent and fight cancer.
Empire State Building lit blue and orange in honor of World Cancer Day Image: Cancer.org
According to the American Cancer Society, over 8 million people worldwide die from cancer every year, making cancer a global health priority. This year, communities around the world will hold walks, seminars, and public campaigns to raise awareness and educate others on how to eliminate cancer by taking various steps, including cancer screenings, healthy eating, physical activity, and smoking cessation.
Cancer advocates agree there are certain steps individuals can take to reduce their risk of cancer, including making healthy lifestyle choices, knowing the signs and symptoms, being aware of early detection guidelines, and supporting cancer patients and survivors during and after cancer treatments.
As a community, we can all educate others about the link between lifestyle and cancer, dispel cancer myths, encourage healthy living habits at schools and in the workplace, and improve access to affordable care.
Helplines, warmlines, and information & referral services around the world can mark this occasion by spreading awareness of cancer prevention methods and even incorporating a few health workplace activities at their own organization. Together, we can reduce the global burden of cancer and make fighting cancer a priority in our own communities.
Wednesday January 25th is a big day for Canadian mental health initiatives: It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day!
This annual event draws attention to mental health, particularly the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many from seeking help. The idea is that if we all talk more openly about mental health and are open to conversations about it, it will lessen the shame attached to mental illness. Bell also champions access to care, workplace mental health, and research.
On Bell Let’s Talk Day, people are encouraged to take to social media and discuss the topics of mental health and mental illness, and use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and watching a video on the Bell Let’s Talk image via Bell’s Facebook page. For participating in these various social media activities using the hashtag, Bell donates $.05 to mental health initiatives and programs across Canada (including many services that are part of the iCarol family!). Bell customers can also participate by texting or making calls. Find out more about how to take part.
To learn more about the impact of Bell Let’s Talk, check out the video below. And check out the Bell Let’s Talk website for more information and a toolkit with everything you need to participate. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and Tweet along with us to raise awareness and remove the stigma from the conversation about mental health!