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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.

“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” Nominated for an Academy Award

Veteran's HelplinesThe HBO Documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” first aired on HBO over a year ago, and at the Academy Award Nominations on Thursday morning, they announced that the film was among the nominees for Best Short Subject Documentary! Congrats to the filmmakers for being nominated for Hollywood’s most prestigious award.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, the film is definitely worth checking out. It’s an intimate look at suicide prevention hotline work. The documentary highlights the work of the call center in Canadaigua, NY that answers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone line operated specifically for veterans at risk of suicide. The documentary features harrowing footage of crisis responders working to find anonymous callers in imminent danger, and the quiet and touching moments between the empathetic workers who listen without judgment and the veterans reaching out for help. It’s available for purchase and rent, or HBO subscribers can watch via HBO GO.

This is a truly well-made film that shines a light on the hard work of suicide prevention lines, and the struggles faced by members of the military. I know I’ll be cheering it on when I’m watching the Oscars this February.

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January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

It’s hard to fathom that slavery still exists in these modern times, but the truth is human trafficking and slavery is a $32 billion industry. It’s also the fastest growing and second largest criminal activity in the world. Just some of the types of slavery and/or human trafficking include forced participation in armed conflicts, prostitution, child pornography, and sweatshop work. While people of all genders and ages can fall victim, sadly children are especially vulnerable and subject to victimization.

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The infographic below outlines some facts on the topic. And check out these 20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking.

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Why we should work to debunk the myth about suicide and the holidays

I distinctly remember the first time I learned the truth about a common myth related to suicide. It was nearly 14 years ago, and I was sitting with my fellow would-be hotline volunteers in our training class, ready to tackle the lesson we were all most nervous about: Suicide. We filled out a pre-test, designed to gauge our base knowledge about the topic, and see what sorts of preconceptions we were bringing with us to our volunteer experience. The true or false quiz seemed simple enough to me at the time, a college junior who had been through her share of advanced psychology classes and was about a year from graduation, in spite of those classes having provided very little mention of suicide. I arrived at one that gave me pause. “True or False: The suicide rate increases around the holidays.”


I was a little stumped. “Gosh…I feel like I hear a lot about suicide during the holiday season,” I thought to myself. “And I know I’ve heard that statistic…somewhere. And hey, what time of year is more stressful for people than that whole period between Thanksgiving and the New Year? It makes sense. True.” My pencil checked the box.

Well (spoiler alert!) I was wrong. We all listened intently to the correct answers and found that much of what we thought was true about suicide was, in fact, false. And I remember feeling almost angry about this, like why was this whole topic so taboo, so secretive, that complete fallacies could be out there in the universe parading around as truths all these years. But that particular myth about the holidays was really stuck in my craw.

So stuck, in fact, that it’s become a running joke between me and my husband because he’s been witness to my missionary-like commitment to setting the record straight. I yell at the TV when I see a show reinforcing the myth. We’d be at a party and someone would find out where I worked and inevitably I’d get lots of questions about suicide, mental health, and other topics. Without a doubt someone would ask if it’s true, or make a comment about how more suicides happen around the holidays. My eyes would widen (another potential convert to help spread my gospel of truth!) as I got to explain (my husband might prefer the term “lecture”) that this was false, and that December can actually be a month where there are fewer suicides, but that springtime does seem to be a time where we lose more people to suicide than other times of year.

In addition to the fact that falsehoods in general just bug me, something about this one would set me over the edge, and I think it’s because I feel it’s actually a bit dangerous to have myths such as this one circulating.

Look, I’m glad that there are articles about suicide this time of year, any time of year for that matter, but too many of them use the myth as a means to drive traffic to their site or increase readership without clearly and categorically setting the record straight that there’s really no relationship between suicide and the holiday season. They also tend to leave out important information about prevention, according to a report by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

What ends up happening is that people continue to feel there is a relationship (look at all these articles that come out about suicide in December, it must be true!) and I think, from that, two things happen.

First, attention to the topic of suicide is heightened at a time of year when incidents are typically at their lowest. Again, awareness is a good thing anytime, but where are all these articles during the rest of the year, particularly in springtime through summer when the incidents of suicide actually do increase? We end up with an abundance of articles and material when the myth creates a demand for content yet incidents are at their lowest, and a lack of attention when they’re at their highest in the spring and the public’s heightened awareness and knowledge of prevention methods could especially be put to good use.

Second, I think the perpetration of this myth promotes a sort of romanticism of, or glamorizes the idea of a holiday suicide. While you cannot put the thought of suicide in someone’s head by simply talking about it (another myth we frequently try to squash), irresponsible reporting of suicide in the media can contribute to the contagion phenomenon, which is very real. This idea that the holidays are a “good” time or a normal time to complete one’s suicide plan, or that a person “should” feel extra depressed, lonely, and susceptible to their thoughts of suicide this time of year can put someone already contemplating suicide in an especially vulnerable place.

It’s true that the holidays can be a stressful time of year. For someone who is already lonely, depressed, or otherwise suffering it can be a tough time. But there’s no evidence to suggest that this results in more people ending their own life around the holidays. I hope everyone will join me in what’s become a personal crusade to stop this myth in its tracks, and replace it with more productive information and education towards suicide prevention all year round.

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“It’s a Wonderful Life” As Viewed by the Crisis Worker

Whether you pop in the DVD or catch one of the many showings on television this season, the Frank Capra classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” tops many must-watch lists for holiday viewing. But for those of you who work in crisis and suicide prevention we suspect you view this film through a unique lens…

You know you’re a Crisis Worker watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” if…

  • You comment on how the movie perpetuates the myth that suicide rates go up at Christmastime

  • You’re jealous that Clarence got to see a factual recap of George’s life before talking to him and think about how much that would help you respond to callers

  • You know George’s circumstances aren’t nearly as bad as many of the people you’ve talked to, and yet you still empathize with him and don’t judge him for feeling suicidal

  • 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 praise Mary for calling a family member to talk about how George was behaving, and not keeping his behavior a secret

  • It reminds you of all the people you’ve spoken to that thought their suicide would be what’s best for their family

  • You note that George chose a very high lethality method

  • You wish Clarence would spend more time letting George tell him how he’s feeling and what has him thinking about suicide, instead of shutting him down and telling George he shouldn’t say such things

  • 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.

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World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day. December 1.

December 1st is designated as World AIDS Day, and this year’s theme is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.”

In a blog from the US Department of Health and Human Services, they share that 35 million people are living with HIV worldwide, with 13.6 million receiving critical antiretroviral therapies. And thankfully, new infections are declining yearly. There were 2.1 million new infections in 2013, a 38% decline from new infections reported in 2012. According to the World Health Organization, 70% of new cases each year occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Access to drugs and diagnostics is absolutely essential to achieving an AIDS-free generation.

The world is making great progress towards having a generation free from AIDS, but much still needs to be done. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has identified “90-90-90” targets to achieve by 2020. These milestones aim to have 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of people who know their status receive treatment, and 90% of people on HIV treatment having a suppressed viral load so their immune system remains so strong that they are not infectious. But to achieve those goals and have a lasting response to the worldwide AIDS epidemic, sustaining AIDS/HIV treatment is key.

Currently 1 in 7 people living with HIV/AIDS don’t know they are infected. This means they may be unknowingly passing the virus to sexual partners, and are not accessing life saving treatments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages everyone to get tested and anyone can access listings for testing sites at gettested.cdc.gov. In Canada you can find a local Provincial/Territorial HIV/AIDS hotline here. People can also call their local helpline or Information and Referral center like 211, as they can also typically help people find their local testing site.

Together, through education, prevention, testing, and life saving treatments, we can achieve a generation that is free from AIDS.

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Call Report Editing control at your fingertips

By now we hope you’ve heard the news that iCarol recently released an expanded, robust set of tools that give you more control than ever over your Call Report forms, used to document the critical data captured during client interactions.

BlogHave you tried the new form editor yet? This tool lets Administrators have almost the same level of control as the iCarol support team. In fact, your tools and the tools our Support team use are extremely similar.

You can now bypass our Support team for most tasks, including things like adding new Categories and questions, and in the time it would have taken to submit a request to make a change, you can now make that change yourself and see the results on your forms instantly. This may be particularly helpful for when you need to respond quickly to rapidly developing events like disasters, or if changes need to occur outside of normal business hours, like weekends or holidays.

We’ve held two webinars so far to walk through this new tool. Thanks to all those who’ve participated – if you haven’t joined one yet, please stop on by. The last one on this topic is scheduled for December 2nd, 2pm EST and you can register via the link below.

Register now!

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iCarol presents at Child Helpline International’s Global Conference

In October, we were delighted to have had the opportunity to present at Child Helpline International’s 7th International Consultation. This assembly of child helplines around the world had sessions covering interesting topics including Digital Fundraising, how communication technologies are used in the prevention and protection from child trafficking, apps for Child Helplines, and much more. This year’s consultation made technology their focus; exploring how technology enables and encourages young people to reach out.

Technology also empowers helplines, and that was the focus of our presentation. Neil McKechnie, our CEO and Co-founder, presented information about how child helpline centres around the world are using iCarol to capture data in highly customizable formats. We showed how our tools help take the guess work out of managing a helpline, and how this valuable information can drive decisions about staffing, equip managers to quickly respond to the needs of their community, study linkages in demographics and issues, adequately train line staff, and so much more.

These are just some of the ways in which our clients are using the data collected in iCarol:

  • When the crisis line’s phone number is advertised on a TV show or elsewhere in the media, they can immediately see the “spike” in calls by pulling real-time call volume charts
  • Interpret seasonal increases in calls from youth during the summer to indicate that this population may need more support when school is out of session
  • Use issues tracking to know what topics staff may need extra training on
  • Decipher patterns in call volume and chat traffic that help inform staffing decisions
  • Visualize co-occurring issues, such as Depression and Suicide
  • Track relationships between issues and age groups, and issues and gender
  • Using the iCarol API, build applications that let kids easily find services in their area
  • Fulfill grant reporting requests by adding new data collection points to their call report forms at any time

These are just some of the ways in which our clients are taking the data collected in their call reporting forms, and turning it into meaningful, actionable information. We’re grateful to have been included in Child Helpline International’s conference this year and hope our audience found our presentation interesting. If you’d like to learn more about iCarol’s statistical capabilities, take a look at our website and please if you have questions or want to learn more.

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Recognizing Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

This week countries all around the world honor the sacrifices made by members of their armed forces. Remembrance Day, celebrated in Canada, the UK, and Australia among other nations, honors the brave men and women who gave their lives in the line of duty. In the US, those who have lost their lives are honored during Memorial Day earlier in the year, while November 11 is a day to honor and celebrate living members of the military.

Each of these holidays, whether in remembrance of fallen soldiers or in recognition of those still with us, is a chance to reflect on the service and sacrifice of our military personnel, and is a time to ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to thank them, support them, and give back to them.

Military service is honorable, and extremely rewarding. Members of the armed forces experience a bond with their fellow service members that is unlike any other, a built-in family and network of support. Military service means receiving world class skills training and professional experience that can lead to an amazing career path. For those who wish to see and experience places and cultures all around the world, and help members of other nations as well as their own, the military can be a wonderful place to achieve those goals.


But as we well know, members of the military face a range of unique challenges on and off the battlefield. They experience long periods of time away from loved ones. If they receive injuries during service it can mean long and laborious recovery, and sometimes permanent physiological damage. They also encounter psychological injury from the trauma of war. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, sometimes in an effort to cope with these experiences, and sometimes for other reasons, substance abuse can become an issue for veterans. In America, 22 veterans each day die by suicide. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports that about 12% of homeless adults in the US are veterans. One in four women in the US military, and one in one hundred men, reports an experience with Military Sexual Trauma, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Certainly, much more should be done to combat these issues.

Each person who enlists is aware of the hardships and dangers, and yet they serve anyway because they love and wish to serve and protect their nation. Regardless of their country, or whether it’s a time of war or peace, the members of our military make an immense sacrifice for their nation and they deserve the highest quality of care and support to face the unique challenges that come with their service.

Most of our clients’ helplines serve veterans in some way, even if their line is not set up or advertised specifically as a veteran’s line. By providing them with crisis intervention, emotional support, advocacy, and information and referral to services, these helplines are doing their part to give back to and honor the members of the military.

In honor of this week’s holidays, we thought you might be interested in some of the following resources and articles:

Canadians share their thoughts on Remembrance Day

Studies Link Mental Issues and the Rigor of the Military

US Department of Veterans Affairs: Mental Health Facts and Resources

NAMI Blog: My Time of Service is Over, But My Time to Serve Never Ends

Relieving veterans’ PTSD through horses, water — even yoga

Suicide claims more Canadian soldiers than those killed by Afghan combat

Remembrance Day — Get Involved

9 Simple Ways You Can Help Veterans

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iCarol clients in the news

We love sharing stories of the great work you and your volunteers and staff are doing in communities all around the world. This week we noticed this article in the Toronto Star highlighting the work of the Good2Talk Program, a partnership between ConnexOntario, Kids Help Phone, Ontario 211 and the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.

The transition to post-secondary education can be a tough one for many youth. Stress comes from all sides, from overwhelming tasks at university, time management issues, social and romantic struggles, pressure to get good marks, financial struggles, being away from family and other support systems, and much more. All of these issues can be compounded for students who may additionally be living with diagnosable mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety.

Good2Talk aims to provide these students with a free and confidential place to talk, where they can be connected with professional counselling, information and referrals to mental health, addictions, and other human services, and receive general listening and suicide prevention services. Read more…

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Come see our team at CUSA/NASCOD Conference this week

This week our business development team will convene in Nashville to participate in the CUSA/NASCOD conference. This event is going to be a particularly special one for us because so many members of our team will be together at once, someone’s even travelling internationally to be there; Britt will be coming all the way from Germany to meet our North American clients!

After Friday’s sessions, we invite you to join us and CONTACT of Mercer County, NJ for a special session at 5pm. We will highlight the TxtToday pilot project; a national Texting Helpline. This pilot is a partnership between CONTACT of Mercer County New Jersey and CONTACT Crisis Line in Jackson, with iCarol as the software platform that accommodates the data aggregation and load balancing of the texts among the centers. We’re excited to talk about iCarol’s role in this partnership and to listen to the centers’ experiences in the pilot.

If you’ve ever considered the benefits of having your center join a national network, then this session is definitely for you. The pilot participants wish to expand this network by adding on more participating centers, so we invite you to come and find out how you might become a part of this exciting venture to reach help seekers all over the nation via this extremely popular and growing channel of text communication. And if you’re still not convinced whether you should join us, we’ll have some treats to share with our audience. Everyone enjoys something to snack on after a busy day of learning and networking! 😛

So if you’ll be one of the many people in Music City later this week, please stop by our booth and say hi! If you use iCarol at your helpline then we’d certainly love to get to meet you face to face! If you’re not a current user, we’d be grateful for the opportunity to tell you about iCarol Helpline Software and how it’s used by helplines all over the world, many of whom will be represented at this conference. Hope to see you there!

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