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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.

GLAAD Spirit Day

Artist Gilbert Baker created the rainbow flag as the symbol of LGBT pride because it embodied diversity and hope. Each color represents something different. Red for Life, Orange for Healing, Yellow for Sunlight, Green for Nature, Blue for Art, and Purple for the Human Spirit. The flag sometimes also includes Pink which symbolizes sexuality, and Indigo for Harmony.

Spirit Day, presented by GLAAD, encourages everyone to wear purple to embody that spirit and to show support and solidarity with LGBT youth. Millions of people, schools, organizations, universities, and corporations participate.

GLAAD offers up a lot of ways to get involved and show your support. You can simply wear purple or choose to change your profile picture on Facebook or Twitter to have a purple overlay using a tool they have available. You can also install an app on your smartphone or tablet that provides anti-bullying resources and calls to action.

The show of solidarity is important, but a big part of Spirit Day is also about educating others on the impact of LGBT bullying. For that, they have resource kits available.

We hope you’ll consider taking part in Spirit Day and show LGBT youth everywhere that it’s okay to be who they are, and that they have lots of support.

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Helplines continue to see call volume increase following Robin Williams’ death

Back in August we blogged about how many crisis lines had been in the news recently speaking about suicide prevention and a spike in calls following Robin Williams’ death.

It turns out that for many helplines, there continues to be an increase in calls compared to what was seen before the actor’s suicide on August 11. This week Newsweek filed a report stating that several helplines still haven’t seen their call volume return to normal.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, whose number was widely shared and publicized after Williams’ death, saw calls to their network increase from around 3,500 per day before the incident to 7,400 the day after. Still two months later they’re seeing about 200 more calls per day than what is considered standard. Other helplines report similar increases.

You can read the full article here. Has this increase in calls lead to more suicides being prevented? We hope so, but as the article says it will be awhile before we’ll have any definitive answers on that. In the meantime we can hope that the raised awareness about the work of suicide hotlines, and the outpouring of support and publicizing these numbers, has indeed resulted in more people getting help.

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World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10th each year, promotes raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. Worldwide much still needs to be done, including better education and awareness to combat stigma, and improving access to quality, affordable care.

This short film follows filmmaker and physician Delaney Ruston on her journey to uncover mental health stories spanning the globe. It’s striking how universal these experiences are. The video also touches on the movements that have been made to help remove stigma from mental health, and how countries worldwide are committed to addressing mental health needs, according to the World Health Organization’s mental health action plan for 2013-2020.

For more on World Mental Health day, we thought you might also like to check out:
The World Health Organization
Five ways we could improve our mental health today, by former heavyweight champion Frank Bruno
World Mental Health Day 2014: The misconceptions broken down

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Mental Illness Awareness Week

miaw-logo

People face many barriers on the path to receiving mental health care. Some of the most common are:

  • Properly recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental illness
  • Knowing where to go for help
  • Availability of services
  • Cost of accessing services
  • The stigma associated with accessing the service
Stigma continues to be one of the toughest barriers to take down.

Every day people are still made to feel ashamed for having a mental illness in spite of these being legitimate medical issues. We’d never dream of making someone with cancer feel as though they did something to “deserve it.” We couldn’t imagine looking at someone with diabetes and telling them that taking medication everyday to stay healthy wasn’t normal. I can’t comprehend telling someone with a broken leg, “If you put your mind to it you can walk without using crutches.” And yet these are the attitudes that those living with mental illness are still facing every day. Some people still fail to see the medical legitimacy in mental illness, causing many to be too embarrassed or ashamed to seek help.

Courtesy of SAMHSA below are some suggestions for messages to share the helps reduce stigma:

Support People with Mental Illness –
Society needs to understand that people with mental illness are not the “other,” they are our family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. They deserve understanding and support.

Learn More about Prevention –
Behaviors and symptoms that signal the development of a behavioral health condition often manifest two to four years before a disorder is present. Effective prevention and early intervention strategies reduce the impact of mental illness.

Help is Available –
Treatment and mental health services are available and effective. Local crisis lines can be a wonderful source of emotional support and an access point for referrals to professional mental health treatment. If they are in crisis or suicidal, Americans can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Canadians can dial their local crisis centre if they are suicidal or in crisis. Local helplines, crisis lines, and distress centres, or 2-1-1 Information and Referral lines can also be excellent sources of support and referral.

Recovery is Possible –
Most people are able to successfully overcome or manage mental illness, including serious mental illness, with the right treatment and support. Spread the message of recovery.

So during mental illness awareness week, I hope that we’ll all recommit ourselves to educating others about mental illness, and continue to chip away at that stigma. Helplines are on the front lines of this fight. Every day, people who haven’t yet talked to their doctor or a loved one about their symptoms choose to reach out to a helpline. Being greeted with the understanding, knowledge, and validation that helpline workers provide plays a huge role in reassuring someone that it’s okay to seek help.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence has been a much-discussed topic in the media these past few months, due in large part to NFL star Ray Rice and other notable professional athletes being involved in incidents of domestic violence. The fact that some famous athletes are perpetrators of domestic violence shouldn’t surprise us; the numbers tell us that domestic violence, particularly violence against women, is unfortunately common all over the world and effects people of all professions, socioeconomic statuses, races, sexual orientations, and genders.

The attention these stories receive brings the issue out into the light and educates the masses on the facts and figures, but it also brings out the victim blaming and shaming. People who aren’t familiar with the insidious nature of domestic violence are quick to simplify a situation by saying, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Hashtag campaigns such as #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft have been helpful in explaining that the answer to that question is far from simple.

We know that domestic violence touches millions of people every day who aren’t famous. Their stories are sometimes kept secret from friends and loved ones, and they certainly don’t make headlines, except perhaps when they result in a homicide. The World Health Organization states that up to 38% of murders worldwide are committed by the intimate partner of the victim.

According to the US Justice Department, in the mid 1990’s the domestic violence rate started to drop, but it’s hard to tell whether this was due to the overall drop in violent crime, a result of the Violence Against Women Act, or other factors. But the numbers are still far too high, estimated at around 1,000 incidents each day in the United States. And even though the need for shelter, legal support, counseling, and other services is great, funding for programs is insufficient and these services are struggling to meet the demand.

Eventually this topic will fade from the public’s consciousness so it’s important that we all keep talking about it and raise awareness and understanding of the issue. Advocate for prevention programs that help teach young people about healthy relationships, which experts say is key in reducing domestic violence since many men and women who are in such relationships as adults were first assaulted as adolescents. Support your local domestic violence helpline or shelter so that they can continue doing great work and meeting the needs of your community.

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World Suicide Prevention Day

Today we recognize World Suicide Prevention Day and in its first ever global report on suicide, the World Health Organization reports that a staggering 800,000 lives per year are lost to suicide worldwide; one person every 40 seconds.

WHO suicide report

    The report goes on to say:

  • National prevention plans endorsed by governments could go a long way in preventing suicide, but currently only 28 countries have such strategies.
  • Most people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness. It’s extremely important for mental illness or substance abuse issues to be identified, diagnosed, treated, and managed as early as possible.
  • Follow up care plays a huge role in keeping someone safe if they have previously had thoughts or made attempts at suicide. Phone calls, visits, and other regular contact with health professionals is key, as well as vigilance among family and friends.
  • In almost all regions of the world, people over age 70 have the highest rate of suicide.
  • Globally suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-29 year olds.
  • Removal of means is a key component to suicide prevention

You can read that full report by the WHO here.

If we could impart just one thing on society it’d be this: Suicide is preventable, and it’s everyone’s business. It takes all of us, every single person out there, to help prevent suicide. Of course social workers, therapists, psychologists, doctors, and nurses all have an important role to play. But it’s the teachers, coaches, colleagues, professors, employers, friends, and family who are arguably the ones on the front lines of suicide prevention. They are the ones with the opportunity to recognize the warning signs, be aware of the risk factors, and know the difference between myths and facts. They are some of the first ones who should ask the direct question about suicide, and be ready and accepting of an honest answer. They can make a world of a difference by being there to listen without judgment even though the conversation can be uncomfortable and scary. They are the ones who can help most in reducing the stigma and shame all too commonly associated with mental illness and suicide. Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

And of course we have to give some major recognition to all of the suicide prevention helpline workers all around the world who save countless lives every single day through the simple act of being there. You are there for people at all hours to listen, empathize, normalize and validate feelings, and provide resources. For many people that phone call, text, or chat session is the first step at getting help, and your warm, accepting demeanor reassures them that they will encounter kindness and understanding along the way, and that there is hope. Thank you, we at iCarol are honored to play a small part in the incredible work you do.

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Changes to AIRS Problems/Needs Categories

If you use the “AIRS Problems / Needs” categories, there will be a small change to them coming with our next update of the taxonomy. AIRS announced they are splitting “Housing and Utility Assistance” into two separate categories: “Housing” and “Utilities”.

When you subscribe to the 211 Taxonomy in iCarol, you get the benefit of automatic updates and maintenance to the taxonomy about once per quarter, helping you stay current and meeting AIRS accreditation standards. Our next taxonomy update will be in early October 2014 so when that is completed, you’ll see this new Problems/Needs category change reflected in your iCarol system.

Once the change is in place, you can continue using any number of statistical reports on Problems/Needs to track and report on these issues, like this one showing the Problem/Needs categories with the current category breakdowns.

AIRSPNReport

Our Taxonomy updates take care of things like adding new codes or replacing codes that have been retired by AIRS. With the October update we will apply the changes to the needs categories, and we’ll automatically and retroactively place previously collected needs into the new appropriate categories, making your annual reports fall in line with what is being requested by AIRS.

If you’re a current iCarol user and have questions about what it means to use Taxonomy in iCarol, check out our videos found in the ‘Help’ section of your iCarol system. If you have questions or want to add Taxonomy to your iCarol system, log a case with us and we’ll be happy to work with you!

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iCarol clients in the news

Since the news of actor and comedian Robin Williams’ suicide last week, the number of times that suicide helpline numbers have been shared via social media is astounding. The number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has undoubtedly been the most common but more localized numbers all over North America, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere have also been shared. This has spurred an increase in call volume to suicide prevention lines everywhere and we wanted to take a moment to share some of the news stories we’ve seen in the previous week.

A report on NBC Nightly News about depression in America featured interviews with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline staff in New York City

The Support Network in Edmonton, Alberta saw a 7% increase to calls last week

This local report in New Jersey highlights the increased call volume seen at CONTACT We Care

The Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles has seen a 95% increase, virtually doubling their calls in the last week

We’re sure this collection of articles barely skims the surface of the experiences of helplines everywhere in the past week. Was your helpline featured in local or national media recently? Please leave us a comment below or send an email to and we will add your article to the list above.

We commend the great work that all of you have been doing in the face of increased awareness and media attention. Out of this notable loss millions have been exposed to the realities of depression and suicide, and your staff and volunteers have admirably stepped up to the challenge and been there to greet people with warm and empathetic listening. Especially for those seeking help for the first time you’ve provided comfort and reassurance that they’re not alone.

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How will you recognize Suicide Prevention Month?

Suicide Prevention Month is quickly approaching, with Suicide Prevention Week being recognized from September 8th – 14th and World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th. There are lots of ways you can recognize this upcoming event.

Join an Out of the Darkness Walk near you. These walks help raise awareness as well as money for research and education. During the month of September, particularly during suicide prevention Week, dozens of these walks will be held. Find one near you and register today.

Donate to a suicide prevention service in your area. You can donate to organizations that focus on research or education, though we humbly suggest you consider donating to a helpline that provides direct help and suicide prevention to those in need. Whether you’re in Canada, the US, or another country, there are suicide prevention lines near you that would greatly appreciate your donation and will put it to excellent use in directly preventing suicide in your community.

Volunteer for a suicide prevention service. These services are always looking for qualified volunteers to answer phones, help with fundraising efforts, and more. Suicide prevention month is a great time to start the application process.

Educate yourself on the topic of suicide. Did you know that suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in Canada and 10th in the United States, or that the elderly are at the highest risk of suicide? By learning the notable statistics, risk factors, warning signs, and myths and facts about suicide, you’ll be empowered to do more and share that knowledge with others.

Receive training on how to help others who are suicidal. Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility and everyone is capable of doing something to prevent it. Trainings like ASIST, safeTALK, QPR, and Mental Health First Aid are some examples of common trainings that may be offered in your community.

Spread the word with social media. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or all of the above, post information in support of suicide awareness and prevention. Maybe try sharing some of those facts you learned, or share a personal story about how suicide has touched your life, or the life of someone you care about. Discussing suicide goes a long way in reducing stigma and bringing the issue out into the open where it belongs!

Alert the media and use your expertise or experience as a helpline agency to do a story on suicide prevention in your community and how people can be helped by contacting you. Agencies that have texting and live chat services always have a great angle for contacting the media to do a story on how those struggling with suicidal thoughts can use those services if they don’t want to call on the phone.

Whether you take one of these actions, or do something different, it’s important to recognize suicide prevention month. Your actions will show others that you care about raising awareness of suicide, and preventing it.

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Depression, suicide, and the loss of Robin Williams

Like so many others, we’re deeply saddened by the death of famous actor and comedian Robin Williams. His death, preliminarily declared a suicide by local authorities, comes as a shock to many who knew him as a comedic genius who brought laughter and joy to millions. While he openly discussed his drug and alcohol addictions and commitment to sobriety, he never publicly acknowledged any diagnosis of depression or other mental illness. His publicist and friends, however, have shared that he was “battling severe depression” and in Tuesday’s press conference authorities said he was seeking treatment for depression.

This tragic and untimely death of someone known and loved by millions has started a dialogue about mental illness and suicide. Since the announcement of Robin Williams’ death and the way he died, there has been an outpouring of support, discussion about mental illness and addictions, words of encouragement, and sharing of important suicide prevention resources and numbers to call for help, the most common being the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

To aid in this important discussion and opportunity for education, we’d like to share with you this blog by Hollis Easter, Hotline Coordinator for Reachout of St. Lawrence County, Inc. and suicide prevention educator.

And while we’re educating others about how to positively contribute to these discussions, let’s talk about that common saying: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” People who say this surely mean well and are only trying to help. Perhaps they think they’ve found that magic phrase that will speak to the person who they want to help and get that person to “snap out of it.” The truth is that most people who attempt suicide were not doing so as a permanent solution to a temporary problem; they wanted a permanent end to weeks, months, or years of personal torment and agony, often due to a medical condition. To say that it’s a temporary issue greatly minimalizes the deep pain and very real suffering they are going through, and likely have been going through for some time.

For more thoughts on why this turn of phrase should be avoided, check out another recent blog by Hollis titled

It is our hope that out of this loss, more people will be educated on the topics of suicide and mental illness. And while a flurry of media attention was placed on Mr. Williams’ death it’s important to note that on Monday an estimated 10 Canadians and 107 more Americans (108 including Mr. Williams) also died by suicide. Each of these deaths is tragic and leaves in its wake at least six people deeply devastated by their loss.

If you work in the suicide prevention industry: Thank you. Your patience, empathy, and compassion is a true gift and you’ve surely touched more lives than you may realize. Whether you speak directly with those contemplating suicide on a hotline, educate others on warning signs and intervention methods, or play one of the numerous other roles in the industry, the work you do saves lives.

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