The Frank Capra Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” tops many lists for holiday viewing, and it’s already making the rounds on TV channels everywhere (check your local listings!). But have you ever stopped and thought about how this popular and enduring holiday program centers around the topic of one man’s suicide plan? Most people view the film casually and for them the suicide aspect of the story may take a backseat to the other major themes. For anyone working in the suicide prevention or crisis industry though, it’s hard not to view the film from that unique perspective.
13 thoughts of crisis workers when watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”
- It bothers you that the movie perpetuates the myth that suicide rates go up at Christmastime
- You’re envious of the detailed and factual background Clarence has on George, and think of how helpful this would be when working with your clients
- You know of a dozen people you’ve spoken to this month who are in way worse circumstances than George, but knowing how complex and unique suicide can be for each person you’d never judge George for feeling how he does
- You can list all the warning signs that George is giving, and yell at the other characters for not picking up on them
- Even better, you wish someone would talk to George about his behavior and ask him directly if he was thinking of suicide
- You cheer on Mary when she calls a family member to talk about how George was behaving, and doesn’t keep his behavior a secret. Mary – 1 Stigma and Shame – 0
- George’s story reminds you of all the people you’ve spoken to that thought their suicide would be what’s best for their family
- You note the high lethality of George’s plan for suicide
- And think of how more bridges need suicide barriers for this very reason
- It angers you when Clarence tells George he “shouldn’t say such things” when George discusses suicide, effectively shutting him down and judging him rather than listening to why he feels this way.
- You’re relieved when George finds his reasons for living
- You’re thankful for the happy ending, but you know that it’s rarely wrapped up so easily
- You’re reminded of why you do the work you do
Have you had any of these thoughts while watching this classic film? Got any other thoughts to add? We’d love to hear from you, leave us a comment!
And while you may not have wings, we know the countless individuals touched by your caring voices consider you all guardian angels. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to saving lives, during the holidays and all year ’round.
Last week we shared information with you about “The Listeners,” a new documentary film that goes inside the work of suicide prevention helplines and the listeners who work there.
My hometown is one of the locations hosting a screening in the coming weeks, and my local paper published this article about the upcoming screening, the film itself, and the work of the local helpline (where I used to work!) which is a program of the Mental Health Association of Frederick County in Maryland. In fact, this showing is at capacity, having sold out all available tickets.
The article provides information about the services of the helpline in Frederick, Maryland and highlights the tough but valuable work they do. The publication also interviewed Robert Hurst, the director of the film, and he shares his thoughts on the work of the service where he filmed the documentary. He even participated in the volunteer training so he could get a first-hand feeling of what the volunteers go through, and he shares his feelings and experiences on that process.
A final thing to note about the newspaper article is that the author identifies herself as a suicide attempt survivor with lived experience, and shares her thoughts and comments on helpline services. She had valuable insight to provide that is not only interesting and adds a unique and important perspective to the topic, but may be worth sharing with the listeners at your own helpline.
The screening and local media attend around will undoubtedly lead to increased awareness of the hotline’s services, and integrated fundraising both at the screening and online associated with it, will likely lead to a donation boost as well. I’m excited to attend our local screening of “The Listeners” tomorrow and I’ll be sure to share my thoughts after.
UPDATE: The film was awesome and very well-received by the sold out audience of community supporters, mental health advocates, and helpline staff and volunteers. I can’t wait to share my thoughts — stay tuned!
Join iCarol at the National Crisis Center Conference in Arizona on October 20th:
“Inspiring Hope” – presented by NASCOD and CONTACT USA. Attendance is essential for crisis organization managers and invaluable for all who work in crisis organizations and call centers. This conference is all about sharing knowledge and camaraderie; you are not alone!
Please come and check out the amazing and definitely hope-inspiring presentation and workshop line-up they have in store for you this year by visiting http://www.nascod.org/conference/
But you must act quickly! Hotel conference discounts end after September 27th and conference registration closes October 7th.
According to Larry C. Johnson’s Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising, few non-profit organizations see their donors as investors. Often times a non-profit will focus on events where donors get some kind of premium for their one-time donation. Johnson ask us to re-imagine this — to move from a transactional construct to one that is more relational. When we ask people to give, we are inviting them to partner with us, to share in our vision and support our mission and programmatic goals. Before any event we should be asking: Does the event fit in with our mission? Is it worth the time, volunteer and staff effort, and upfront costs? How will we continue to engage our donors afterward? Regardless of the event, be it outreach or fundraising focused, it’s helpful to have a donor management system in place beforehand, to capture data and continue engagement post-event.
My center, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, has held multiple fundraising and outreach events — a concert with an out of town performer who’d played previous benefits for our local NAMI chapter; a semicolon tattoo event — almost 100 people got permanent ink of henna tattoos that evening; hosting the film “The Mask You Live In”, a documentary about the risks of toxic masculinity, at our local art house theater; and a golf tournament this summer.
We have learned that the best fundraisers are the ones with the lowest initial overhead and the least amount of logistical work!
We have learned to not be too attached to dollar amounts, but to see these events first and foremost as outreach and volunteer engagement/recruitment opportunities. The concert required the most work and capital outlay, and we just broke even financially. We saw it as an overall success as the press surrounding the event did a lot to raise awareness of our service, and bring more prospective volunteers through our doors. The tattoo and film fundraisers were fairly easy to stage, cost relatively little up front and raised decent money between them. Finally, our golf fundraiser was hosted and staged by a person who had lost a family member to suicide some years prior and approached us with the offer.
We also held an outreach event at a local arts festival where we created “listening stations” (booths with hard wired phones inside and out). One trained volunteer inside each booth played a caller with a thought provoking but non-suicidal/ on-super acute crisis story to tell. We asked participants to pick up the phone and simply listen, while our volunteers, in role, shared their stories. The volunteer then thanked the participant for listening.
With the exception of the concert, our goal with each of these events is to have them be, if possible, “The First Annual…” which lowers the logistical bar for us for next year, and starts to build culture, community and history around each event, both within our shop and in our larger community.
Get creative! Ask your volunteers, staff, and local community members for ideas that fit with your mission! Most of all, have fun with it. Treat your volunteers, staff, and participants well, make the most of community engagement opportunities presented, and keep up the dialogue with all of your new and existing partners/ investors! If you are considering a semicolon tattoo event, keep in mind that an organization called Project Semicolon has trademarked some of the associated imagery and verbiage. We reached out to them and got permission in writing before moving forward with the event.
Guest blogger John Reusser is Director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, and serves on the Board of Directors for CONTACT USA. John is also a member of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention, a board member of the Livewilder Foundation, and Certified ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) Trainer and a licensed Designated Examiner.
Ontario Online and Text Crisis Services program (ONTX) recently marked a year of service to their communities, and shared data with constituents in their latest newsletter. In the report they describe response to the program as “overwhelmingly positive” while allowing contact with many individuals who otherwise would not have reached out for help.
Some key findings:
- Total chats and texts: 8,921
- 75% of visitors were under 24 years old, while that same demographic makes up a very small portion of their phone callers
- Over 200 specialists trained to take chats and texts
- They receive an average of 5 suicide-related contacts each time the service is open
- More than half of visitors said that in the absence of an online emotional support service like ONTX, they would not have spoken to anyone about their problem
For a full look at the released findings click here, or read a summary here. Want future updates from ONTX and other services of DC Ontario? Be sure to sign up for Distress and Crisis Ontario’s newsletter by emailing your request to .
We’re thrilled by the success of our friends at ONTX, though it comes as no surprise to us that they’ve had this response. The caring people at the Distress and Crisis Ontario have been providing listening support and crisis intervention to Ontario for nearly 50 years. Their latest step to make their services available in a way that works for everyone in need demonstrates their commitment to helping people and saving lives.
Kevin Hines is a mental health advocate, filmmaker, and best-selling author. He’s also one of only a very few people who have survived a suicide attempt by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Tonight he’ll speak in Mandeville, LA at an event titled Cracked but Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving after a Suicide Attempt.
Read more about this event, and its special meaning for the local community hosting Kevin tonight. Thanks to our own Christa who alerted us to this story! Sadly she wanted to attend but can’t, as she’s preparing to head to St. Louis for our iCarol Summit and the AIRS Conference. We have a good number of iCarol users and blog readers living in this area of the country, so if you do live in the greater New Orleans area, please consider attending this speaking engagement or sharing it with your friends.
Photo (c) Kevin Hines 2014 from www.kevinhinesstory.com
Another texting success story, this time featuring our friends at Samaritans, was covered in a prominent US news publication.
In April, The Boston Globe highlighted the success of Samaritans’ texting program, which you can read here. According to the report, the organization received more than 300 text messages in February, which was nearly triple the number received in January. They expect to receive upwards of 1,000 text messages per month by this summer as word of the program spreads.
Samartians opted to text-enable their helpline number for the purposes of this program, which is part of its success. Another clear contributor to the volume they’re experiencing is their latest advertising partnership with MBTA in Boston which began in January. The T, as it’s known in Boston, began showing messages on LED notification boards with information such as, “Lonely? Desperate? We can help 24/7″ featuring Samaritans’ number. This and other messages appear periodically between 7am and 9pm on weekdays, and 9am until 9pm on weekends.
While Samaritans and MBTA had an advertising partnership prior to this one, it was MBTA that approached Samaritans last year about expanding the messaging to reach an even larger audience. You can read more about this advertising program in The Boston Globe article.
From all of us at iCarol, we’d like to congratulate Samaritans on the success they’ve had so far, and we wish them all the best with this life-saving program moving forward.
To learn more about texting with iCarol, join one of our Service Alternatives: Live Chat and Texting webinars. If you’d like to learn more about text-enabling your helpline number check out our blog article, and reach out to our support team to get started.
From March 30 through April 2, members of our team will be in Chicago for the 49th 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. There’s nothing more important to us than helping you save lives.
We look forward to reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones, too. We’ll be there to talk about iCarol with anyone who would like to learn more and is considering helpline software for their organization. Members of our Product Management team will be on hand, too, and would welcome your specific feedback about how iCarol’s been working for you, and your thoughts on particular features. Please look us up at the conference, or
beforehand if you’d like to set up a time to talk.
We look forward to seeing you and learning about all the latest on the life-saving work being done by our helpline industry so that we can continue to build our systems to support you.
On Friday March 11th from 12:00 – 1:00pm EST, the American Association of Suicidology will present a webinar titled “Harnessing the Presence of a Teachable Moment to Improve Care for Suicide Attempt Survivors.”
Description: The population of suicide attempt survivors treated in acute inpatient medical settings is heterogeneous in nature, ranging from those who made a near-lethal attempt with little intent to die to others treated for a serious premeditated suicide attempt meant to result in death. As such, discharge planning will vary based upon multiple factors, including medical coverage, resource allocation, and patient motivation to engage in mental health services. While patients stabilize physically, hospitals could . . . Read More
This webinar is offered free of charge to AAS members, and is just $35 for non-members.
AAS membership offers learning opportunities like this webinar, discounts on conferences, publications, and training, and more. Click here to learn more.
In December we passed along the news that our friends at CONTACT Care Line would open a new call center this year.
We’re excited to convey an update that the call center opened in January. We have no doubt that the dedicated staff and volunteers have been enjoying the new space. They have temporary furniture in place. Why is it only temporary? This worthy organization is getting some decorating help from professionals. From a recent mailing:
The Interior Design Society of East TN is working with us to plan, design, furnish, and decorate our new space. We’ll roll out the red carpet and invite you to come for a look once they’ve finished giving us an HGTV styled make-over! The wonderful professionals of the Interior Design Society are donating their time and expertise to give our volunteers a beautiful and highly functional setting in which to work. And, CONTACT is deeply grateful!
We’re so happy to hear this fantastic news and hope you’ll join us in congratulating this awesome organization. There’s nothing quite like a professional space that was designed with love and purpose and care to make the staff and volunteers of a helpline feel valued and appreciated as they do hard, life-saving work.
If you’re lucky enough to live in the Knoxville area, we hope you’ll consider attending CONTACT Care Line’s “Bursting the Blues” event on March 5th that will benefit the crisis call center. More details and ticket information is available here.
We always want to spread the word about the great work and accomplishments of helplines. Got a story to share? Please !