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May is Mental Health Month

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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!

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iCarol to attend the American Association of Suicidology Conference

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From April 26th through the 29th, members of our team will be in Phoenix for the 50th American Association of Suicidology Conference.

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.

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iCarol attending the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference

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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!

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Career Opportunity at Marin Suicide Prevention and Community Counseling

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Our friends at Marin Suicide Prevention & Community Counseling are seeking candidates for the position of Program Director. Below is information shared with us by them, and links to more details and instructions on applying for this position:

    Marin Suicide Prevention & Community Counseling is currently hiring for the position of Program Director, a Full-Time, Exempt (40 hours) position in San Rafael, California. SP&CC is a program of Buckelew Programs. The program consists of about 35 volunteers and takes approximately 15,000 calls annually.

    For the full job description, responsibilities, requirements, and more, plus information on how to apply, click here.

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Self-service Tools: The new age of helpline service

Web page

My former employer’s Executive Director used to always say that as long as people still used phones, our crisis lines would answer them, but if people used ESP to communicate, well, we’d use that too. While most humans haven’t yet figured out a way to use ESP for communication, our society is using different forms of communication and even non-communication to get information, assistance, and support.

Text and chat communication has grown exponentially across most age ranges within the past five years. On top of that, a growing trend has also arisen with the internet: self-service tools. There is a big opportunity for helplines of all kinds to use self-service tools to promote their services and increase partnership agreements.

Because we here at iCarol are committed to providing helplines and others the tools they need to reach people across multiple platforms, we created Online Forms. With Online Forms, website visitors can submit information which comes into your iCarol system as a completed report form. Since the forms are essentially a public facing version of an iCarol report form, you can view, edit, and report on the form in the same way as all of your other report forms.

Several possible applications exist for using iCarol’s Online Forms. Let’s explore two use cases:

Assessment and Program Intake

Elmdale Crisis Center (a fictitious organization) operates numerous crisis lines through various contracts with mental health authorities, public and private health providers, and local municipalities. Elmdale’s management team is looking at ways to increase contract amounts by providing additional services without adding too much burden on their staff. After reviewing their current service offerings, they found a few contract required assessments that could be offered through an additional avenue, Online Forms.

They designed the following workflow:

online form workflow

With this workflow, Elmdale Crisis Center can extend the service offerings of the contract with the goal of increasing the number of people who request an assessment and intake into the service provider’s programs.

Consumer Satisfaction Survey

Elmdale Crisis Center’s management team wants to capture a consumer’s satisfaction and risk levels after using their crisis services so that they can report on outcome achievements and demonstrate their social return on investment, necessary for future funding requests. They decided to use iCarol’s Online Forms so that the consumer’s responses and information comes into their system automatically and their front line staff is notified if the person submitting the form would like additional follow-up.

Elmdale placed the consumer satisfaction survey on their website and created an iCarol resource record containing the online survey link, so that their consumers can receive the link directly via a texted or emailed referral from the iCarol system. They instructed their workers to provide the survey link to consumers at the end of their conversations.

The management team designed the following online survey:

Pre-screening question – if answered “no”, visitor cannot complete the survey.

    1. Have you contacted Elmdale’s crisis services? Yes/No

    Survey Questions

    1. When did you last contact Elmdale’s crisis line?
  • Today
  • Yesterday
  • This week
  • Last week
  • Earlier this month
  • Last month
  • Longer than two months ago

  • 2. How did you contact Elmdale?
  • Call
  • Text
  • Chat
  • Other, please specify

  • 3. On a scale of 1-10, how upset were you at the beginning of your conversation with an Elmdale crisis worker?
  • 1-10 Scale

  • 4. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the level of empathy and understanding the Elmdale crisis worker demonstrated during your conversation?
  • 1-10 Scale

  • 5. One a scale of 1-10, how upset were you at the end of your conversation with an Elmdale crisis worker?
  • 1-10 Scale

  • 6. Will you contact Elmdale’s crisis services again?
  • Yes, definitely
  • Yes, possibly
  • No, probably not
  • No, definitely not

  • 7. Would you recommend Elmdale’s crisis services to a friend or family?
  • Yes, definitely
  • Yes, possibly
  • No, probably not
  • No, definitely not

  • 8. Would you like an Elmdale crisis worker to contact you regarding this survey?
  • No
  • Yes +
  • + Contact Information
    First Name ________________
    Phone Number __ (____) ___________
    Best time of day to call _______________

The versatility of iCarol’s Online Forms opens up entirely new methods for those in need to contact you. Using Online Forms provides additional opportunities to increase and improve service offerings, which can translate into more funding to support your helpline.

Do you have other ideas about how Online Forms can be used? Leave a comment below. Want to discuss some of these ideas with an iCarol staff member? Contact us.

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Webinar: National Council on Problem Gambling Presents Information on Sports Gambling

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On February 28th at 1pm EST, Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, will present a webinar on the topic of sports gambling.

Here are the webinar details as provided by NCPG:

    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

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Marriage Equality Linked to Decrease in Youth Suicide Attempts

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Proponents of same-sex marriage advocated for legalization not just because they saw it as a basic human and legal right for all couples to marry, but many also argued that equality under the law could lift up young people feeling lost and hopeless.

Data is emerging that suggests this theory is valid.

Each year since 1991, a sample of high school students in the US participate in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, an annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. The anonymous survey, roughly 90 questions long, asks about everything from cyber bullying to sexual assault to carrying weapons to dating violence, and beyond. There is also a section of the survey that asks about students’ feelings of hopelessness, whether they have attempted suicide, and if so, how many times.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those aged 15-24, but gay, lesbian, and bisexual students surveyed are far more likely to have made a suicide attempt than their straight peers, 29% to about 6%, respectively. The survey does not ask about gender identity. Researchers analyzed data collected between 1999 and 2015, and focused on studying differences in survey results between states that legalized same-sex marriage during that time, and those that did not.

The study found that in the 32 states passing marriage equality measures between 2004 and 2015, youth suicide attempts decreased overall, even among students who identified as heterosexual. But among students who reported being gay, lesbian, or bisexual, suicide attempt rates dropped by 14%. There was no change the rate of suicide attempt in states that did not have marriage equality as of January 2015.

Researchers noted that as with all studies, a simple correlation does not mean causation. However the link between the decrease in attempts among LGB students in just these states is worth contemplation. It suggests, as supporters have been saying for years, that societal stigma towards the LGBT community is harmful to sexual minority youth, and can increase feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Even though most high schoolers are not thinking about marriage, achieving the legal right brings a sense of legitimacy and equality, and leads to a normalization of same-sex relationships and counters the sense that they are wrong or immoral.

For more on this study and the results:

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Honoring World Cancer Day

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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
World Cancer Day Empire State Building
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.

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Key benefits of iCarol for Lifeline and Crisis Center Work

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Many of our clients participate in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline is a network of over 160 crisis centers in the U.S. These centers take calls and chats from all across the country, focusing on suicide prevention. These free and confidential services provide crisis support and community resource referrals, 24-hours a day.

Members of the Lifeline network follow proven protocols and guidelines to ensure safe outcomes for those in crisis. Whether you offer crisis services and/or are part of the Lifeline network, protocols and guidelines are critical to the success of your program. Ensuring they are easy to follow not only gives you better outcomes for those in crisis, but makes it easier for your staff and volunteers to do their important work.

I’m often asked by members of the Lifeline network and others in the field doing crisis center work why they should choose iCarol. Very simply put, iCarol is the expert in helping not-for-profit helplines set up their technology, to best support the protocols mentioned above.

In my experience managing a not-for-profit helpline who took calls for the Lifeline, as well as helping iCarol clients do the same, here is how iCarol can help:

  • Messaging built right in! Volunteers and staff sign into one system—iCarol—to handle calls for your agencies, calls for the Lifeline, and even chats for the Lifeline, or your own chats or texts. Read more here.

  • A live risk assessment gauge, developed by the Lifeline for iCarol, calculates suicide risk in real-time, and provides instructions on the next steps with each risk level. Learn more about this tool.

  • Intelligently designed call report forms allow for different ‘paths’ for your call takers. Example: If the call is a Lifeline call, a set of questions appears appropriate for that. Or, if the call is for a different program your agency takes calls for, have a different set of questions pop up.

  • Worried that your workers aren’t following certain protocols for imminent risk callers? Take what is described above a step further to make the response(s) required or not. This reduces error, as well as can provide crucial guidance about next steps for the call taker in tense situations.

  • Help your workers to provide referrals to community resources, designed in a very easy-to-use interface, even for a worker who is only there a few hours a week can use.

  • Provide staff feedback—right in iCarol—to the call taker. This feedback can be private, or visible to all. Perhaps they did not follow a certain protocol of the Lifeline, or another program appropriately. We give you the industry’s best way to provide them this feedback. It alerts them when they log in, to read their feedback, and then tracks it when they do!

  • Legal lock of call reports: Did something happen on an interaction that may be subpoenaed or looked into more? You can put a legal lock on it to ensure that no one, even the administrative users in your system, can make changes to it.

Hands down, iCarol is the best solution to support your work with the Lifeline, or other programs.

Want to learn more? Start a free trial or contact me.

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iCarol Webinar: Assessing Risk of Intimate Partner Violence

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Your helpline is a trusted source of listening support, and even if you don’t advertise your service as specializing in topics of intimate partner violence or sexual violence, there’s a good chance many of the people that reach you are at risk.

Join us for a free webinar to learn more about using the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA) tool to help assess one’s risk, explore ways to reduce that risk, and provide assistance to your clients.

When: Wednesday January 18, 2017

Time: 1pm EDT

You Will Learn:

  • About different types of risk assessments
  • The goals of using the SARA risk assessment
  • The differences between Dynamic and Static Risk Factors
  • What information should be available to complete an assessment
  • Ideas for implementing use of this tool at your helpline
  • And more!

Presenter: Dustin MacDonald is a Registered Social Service Worker (RSSW) who has been involved with helplines including Distress Centre Durham for the previous 5 years, as well as performing quality assurance, producing analytics and forecasting for the Ontario Online & Text Crisis Services program of Distress and Crisis Ontario. He brings to these roles an understanding of statistics and experience performing a variety of program evaluations and assessments. We’re very pleased to welcome him as our presenter.

We hope you can join us for this webinar!

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