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Dana

Dana joined the iCarol team in 2013 after 12 years of direct service and administrative duties at a blended 2-1-1/crisis intervention/suicide prevention center. As the Communications and Social Media Manager at iCarol, you'll find her presenting Webinars, Tweeting, Blogging, Facebooking, and producing other materials that aid helplines in their work.

October 4-10 is Mental Illness Awareness Week

Each year during the first full week of October, mental health organizations draw attention to mental health conditions through Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Mental illnesses are medical conditions that effect millions of people, however they are still misunderstood and stigmatized, and those living with these conditions still face prejudice that those with other medical conditions don’t experience.

The aim of Mental Illness Awareness Week is to provide public education highlighting the fact that these illnesses are medical conditions and should be treated as such.

For more information on Mental Illness Awareness Week, and to participate with promoting the efforts around public information on mental illness, visit these resources:

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iCarol virtually exhibiting at National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) Conference

iCarol is very proud and excited to be an exhibitor at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) virtual conference and tradeshow September 21-24.

This will be iCarol’s second year in attendance at n4a, though things are a bit different this year with the conference and tradeshow being a virtual event. Nonetheless, we are excited to once again celebrate the work of Area Agencies on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) and are amazed at how these organizations have responded and provided continuity of services amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. Older adults and those with health conditions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, but maintaining social connections and other services under social distance has been critical to these individuals. Aging organizations have stepped up in amazing ways to provide consistency and reassurance.

At our virtual n4a booth this week we have information to share about how iCarol empowers ADRCs, AAAs, and Senior Information Lines, and other services for older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers to:

  • Collaborate with Community-Based Organizations to address Social Determinants of Health
  • Participate in CIE and No Wrong Door initiatives
  • Document information included on reimbursement requests
  • Meet people on preferred communication channels
  • Provide Closed-Loop referral and collect outcome data
  • Integrate with other software and systems

If you’re attending the conference, be sure to visit the iCarol virtual booth to learn more, download the resources we have available, and contact us with your questions!

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Mental Health America releases 2020 Back to School Toolkit

Returning to school and beginning a new academic year can cause feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in any circumstances, but this year it is extra stressful on students, parents, and educators alike due to COVID-19.

Each year, Mental Health America releases a back to school toolkit aimed at helping people start the new school year right with healthy habits and an awareness of stress and mental health. This year the kit contains materials aimed specifically at coping with the unusual circumstances of beginning school in the midst of a pandemic, with many schools opting for virtual or distance learning, at least for the first semester.

The 2020 Mental Health America Back to School Toolkit is available now on the Mental Health America website.

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iCarol Helps Mental Health America of Virginia Consolidate Systems and Improve Service Delivery

We are excited to welcome Mental Health America of Virginia (MHAV) to the iCarol family of customers. The oldest mental health advocacy organization in Virginia, MHAV works closely with service providers and peers to complement an individual’s recovery from trauma, mental illness, or addiction. MHAV provides a variety of programs to the community, including a Warm Line telephone service for anyone in Virginia who needs a listening ear or wants resource information.

MHAV chose iCarol to help them improve service delivery and administrative workflows within their warm line program. Using iCarol, they can now consolidate their documents, files, and referrals to a single system, allowing their warm line staff and volunteers easier and more efficient access to the information they need to serve consumers of the program. They plan to enhance their team cohesion as a result of having all their communications being carried out within iCarol rather than using a number of disparate external programs. The categorization and searching capabilities within the built-in resource/referral database will enable warm line staff and volunteers to quickly find the best resources for callers.

iCarol is also helping MHAV meet unprecedented demands placed on their agency by COVID-19, when mental health and wellbeing is a paramount concern to everyone. The global pandemic has required them to be able to staff up as needed to meet growing demand for emotional support, and with iCarol they’ll be able to more quickly onboard new volunteers.

Of their partnership with iCarol, MHAV staff and leadership shared:

“The warm line team loves using the iCarol platform to do their work. They rave about how user friendly it is to complete Contact Forms, view shift schedules, communicate with each other using the internal chat feature and the ease of engaging in text message conversations with people who prefer texting support. As the warm line manager, I love using the platform for the same reasons including the ease of running reports in real-time, viewing and providing feedback to the team, making schedule changes and being able to get support from the iCarol team quickly. The service has enabled us to better serve Virginians with the support they need during these extremely difficult times.”

— Cheryl DeHaven, MHAV Warm Line Manager


“I enjoyed working with the iCarol team throughout the implementation process – very professional, timely, and accommodating.”

—Bruce N. Cruser MSW, Executive Director

To learn more about Mental Health America of Virginia, visit www.mhav.org.

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Attracting funders in times of crisis

The Coronavirus global pandemic has introduced all sorts of new challenges to not-for-profit organizations — maintaining services while social distancing and obeying stay-at-home orders, keeping staff and clients safe, shifting to remote work, engaging clients online — to name a few. And while seamless service delivery is of the utmost importance, those services often can’t exist without donors, stakeholders and funders, and we’ve still yet to see the long-term impacts the economic downturns and depression may have on non-profit funding.

A recent blog shared to Candid Learning, an online source for information about philanthropy and fundraising, shares some information and steps toward better engaging and accessing funding sources during the pandemic, and tips on realigning services with the missions and priorities of those funders. Read more on the Candid Learning blog, authored by Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi.

Check out these related resources:

How to get funding for new technology

How to Get Funding
for New Technology
Download
woman with megaphone

Why Advocacy and
How the Heck Do You Do It?
Watch
team with backs facing camera interlocking arms

Building a United Crisis Line Team
in Times of Diverse Need
Watch
graph of data pointing to dollar sign

How to Calculate
Social Return on Investment
Download

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July is BIPOC Mental Health Month

BIPOC mental health month logo

July is recognized as Black, Indigenous People, and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Month. According to Mental Health America, this recognition began in 2008 as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and has since been observed each July and was created to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the United States. Its namesake, Bebe Moore Campbell, was an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities.

BIPOC Mental Health month aims to draw attention to several key facts:

  • Trauma can affect the way we think, act, and feel. The impact of trauma on BIPOC has spanned generations due to centuries of systematic oppression.
  • BIPOC are often faced with years — even generations — of trauma, which translates to socioeconomic disparities and, in turn, is linked to mental health concerns today.
  • Systemic oppression is directly tied to the mental health of BIPOC. Historical and contemporary injustices continue to perpetuate trauma through generations and into today.

In recognizing and promoting BIPOC Mental Health Month, Mental Health American aims to create an opportunity where people can listen and learn from each other about why it’s important to talk about racism and mental health and how it’s affected them.

To learn more, and download the full BIPOC Mental Health Month Toolkit, visit https://www.mhanational.org/BIPOC-mental-health-month.

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New Enhancements: Calculated Duration, AMI %, and History of Contact Record Changes

The latest release to the iCarol web application includes a number of useful enhancements to Contact Forms!

Calculated Duration

One of the text-entry field types available on iCarol Contact Forms, used to document information about client interactions, is the Date field.

As part of the Contact Form editing tools, iCarol Admins and others with Contact Form Version editing permissions can now opt to have a calculated duration appear on the Contact Record, measured in their choice of Days, Weeks, Months, or Years, alongside the date that was entered. calendar

While the most common use of the Date field is to record a person’s date of birth, there are a number of uses for this field, for example one could use it to note the date of a particular event related to the interaction or person’s need. Therefore, the calculated duration could refer to anything that may be of use to an organization—A person’s age in years, months spent without stable housing, weeks since a job loss, or days since someone was victimized in a crime, etc.

Calculated Duration allows Contact Specialists to quickly note the length of time passing since the entered date, which could influence the way they respond to the situation and provide helpful information that can be useful when providing support, referrals, safety planning, and more.

Area Median Income

iCarol Admins and others with Contact Form Version editing permissions can now edit their Contact Forms to include a table noting household sizes, and the corresponding local Area Median Income (AMI) amount for each household size. Once the local AMI table information is entered, related text entry fields can be added to the Contact Form. When documenting a client interaction, the specialist can enter the individual’s household size and annual income, which will result in a AMI% being calculated and shown on the form. This information is useful when determining an individual or family’s eligibility to participate in certain programs or receive assistance.

Contact Form History of Changes

Each time a change is made to a Contact Record, iCarol will automatically record who made the change, when this change was made, and information about what the change entailed. The History of Changes will be visible on the finished Contact Record, providing an audit trail for those who want to closely track these changes.

iCarol Customers can obtain setup and other instructions and information on these enhancements within the iCarol Help Center.

If you are not yet using iCarol but would like to learn more about these and other enhancements, please contact us.

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Practicing Self-care in Times of High Stress Part 2

This is the second in a series of blogs about practicing self-care in times of high stress, such as what we’re experiencing now with COVID-19. You can read Part 1 here.

Many people—especially those in helping professions—find it hard to practice self-care even if they understand its importance. There are a number of reasons for this. It is difficult to pause and make time for self-care practices when consumed by tasks at home, work, with family, etc. Helpers might feel guilty about taking time for self-care for fear that they are somehow letting down their families, coworkers or clients by pausing, even momentarily, to care for themselves. With these obstacles in play, it’s important to take some actions to make self-care a bit easier to achieve.

Tips to Help Make Self-care Possible

Start short, and work your way up

Sometimes we associate self-care with activities taking a long bubble bath or treating yourself to a professional massage. While either of those can be great for self-care, these two examples involve a level of time and cost commitment that is unrealistic for many people. Instead, we should think of self-care as something that someone only needs to take a few minutes to achieve at first. While it’s ideal to take more than just a few minutes at a time for self-care, associating self-care only with more indulgent, time-consuming activities can easily set a person to give up on the idea without even trying, because it seems too unrealistic to achieve.

Develop strategies for work and home

You’re going to need self-care options for several different environments and circumstances, so it’s a good idea to keep a few ideas in your toolbox that will work for the setting. Taking a half hour to break and read a book or watch a television program might work at home, but in the office self-care may look more like finding a quiet space for a few minutes of deep breathing and recharging. Try to keep an open mind and find multiple activities that work for you so that you can practice self-care as you find time in a variety of environments.

Pursue activities that are therapeutic for you

When deciding how to care for yourself, think about what you enjoy and what kinds of activities give you a deepest sense of peace, relaxation, or accomplishment of self-care. It can be easy to get caught up in what self-care “should” look like through society’s perspective, but effective self-care is very individualized.

Make it a team effort

It’s a phrase we’ve heard a lot lately— “We are all in this together.” But, the saying is particularly true especially for those who are working directly on COVID-19 response. Caring for others is one of those things you’re good at, and you can use that power to take care of your colleagues, and let them take care of you as well. The power and protection of your team is more meaningful now than ever, so rely on one another to help make self-care a priority. For example, help remind one another to take breaks as needed at work, and be there to process difficult calls with one another. If everyone buys in to self-care as an important part of the workplace, you can all help one another be accountable for everyone practicing good self-care.

In the third and final part of this blog series, we’ll share some ideas for self-care activities and why each might be effective for reducing stress.

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Practicing Self-care in Times of High Stress Part 1

April is Stress Awareness Month. Right now we’re all very aware of just how stressful life is, and for those providing any kind of services and response to COVID-19, it is an especially stressful time. When the calls are nonstop, the task list is endless, and the hours are long, that’s precisely when we tend to abandon our self-care so we can focus more attention on work—And that’s the exact wrong thing to do.

It is normal to approach self-care with skepticism. Not so much questioning its importance, but how realistic it is to achieve. The reality is none of us have the free time staring us in the face where we can easily focus on ourselves, the point is you have to make the time and commit to it.

Why is Self-care Important?

Be a more effective caregiver

As the flight attendant says, “In the event of an emergency, when the oxygen masks deploy, be sure to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” Why? Because if you pass out from lack of oxygen, not only do you suffer but those who needed your assistance can’t receive help either. You cannot be an effective caregiver to others if you yourself are suffering from excessive stress or burnout. And the way to avoid getting to the breaking point is to practice self-care along the way, and often, so that stress levels aren’t able to get to the point of breaking you and preventing you from truly being present for each client interaction you are tasked to handle.

Prevent physical and mental health problems

It’s not just about the health and well-being of the people you serve—your own health is put at risk when stress compounds and you neglect a self-care routine. According to numerous health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Canadian Public Health Association, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, American Heart Association, National Institute of Mental Health, and others, chronic stress can lead to several—sometimes serious—health conditions including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Problems sleeping/insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Disruption to memory and concentration
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease and stroke

The American Psychological Association outlines the numerous, and very scientific, reasons that stress impacts your body from your brain to your muscles and everything in between. If you struggle with investing time in a self-care routine, think of it this way: If any of the conditions listed above develop as a result of chronic stress, you’ll end up spending much more of your time, resources, finances—and, ultimately undergo even more stress. Think of the old quote by Benjamin Franklin coined way back in 1736: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Maintain healthy relationships

When things are particularly hectic at work, coming home can be a welcome reprieve. But, left unmanaged, stress can create unrest in your household. Stress is contagious, and so your overall mood or tense demeanor could cause your partner, children, and others in your home, to experience similar symptoms. Stress can cause us to have a “shorter fuse” and lose patience more quickly, leading to bickering or blow ups. And, in this case, one of the scientific benefits of stress—increased vigilance—can make you hyper aware of the faults, annoying habits, and negative behaviors of those around you, again potentially creating more arguments and bickering. Effectively managing stress through self-care can help keep the peace.

How do I practice self-care?

In Part 2 of this blog series, we’ll look at the different ways one can practice self-care to relieve the symptoms and effects of stress.

Sources:
Why Self Care Can Help You Manage Stress
The Mind and Mental Health: How Stress Affects the Brain
Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior
The Effects of Stress on Your Body
Lower Stress: How does stress affect the body?
Mental Health – Coping With Stress
Stress effects on the body
5 Things You Should Know About Stress
Managing Stress
How Stress Affects Mental Health
Is Stress Killing Your Relationship? Why You’re Not Alone
What are the effects of stress on a relationship?

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

When it comes to teens dating, many parents and guardians worry about things like their teen’s emotions or heartbreak, staying out too late, losing focus and falling behind at school, sexual activity, STDs, or teen pregnancy. And while all of those are worthy of concern for a caring parent, many do not stop to consider another big issue facing teens: Teen Dating Violence.

According to information provided by loveisrespect.org, a survey found that 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue. And though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.

This is troubling considering the problem of abusive romantic relationships between teens problem is a prevalent issue.

  • 1 in 3 high school students experience physical or sexual violence, or both, by someone they are dating
  • 10% of adolescents report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national (US) average
  • Among female victims of intimate partner violence, 94% of those age 16-19 and 70% of those age 20-24 were victimized by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18

To learn more about Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, visit: teendvmonth.org/
Break The Cycle
CDC – Preventing Teen Dating Violence

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