Raise your hand if this scenario sounds familiar: You, and many of your volunteers and staff, agree that you should add new communication channels like live chat or texting to your not-for-profit’s service offerings. But, there’s one big problem—your CEO, Board of Directors, or funders aren’t yet convinced.
Perhaps they see your current call volume is healthy or growing, and they mistakenly feel this is a sign that communication by voice call is sufficient, just as in demand as ever, and your community doesn’t need or want these new channels. On the surface that takeaway is understandable, but it’s also wrong.
Current call volume is a poor indicator of whether or not people need support through texting/SMS and live chat. Here’s why: If voice calling is the only option to reach you, and you provide needed services over the phone, of course the calls will be there. It’s not about how many people are calling. It’s about who’s not calling.
When you only provide emotional support, information and referral, and crisis intervention over the phone, you’re not serving the members of your community who need your services but won’t—or can’t—use the phone to access them.
We recently asked an iCarol user how she convinced her board to fund her live chat and texting service, and she said, “I just asked them, ‘Have you ever met a teenager?’” Her point being that teens simply don’t call hotlines, at least not in significant numbers. In fact, this is one area where our clients do report declines in call volume. Many of the organizations we serve report that people under age 25 are their smallest represented demographic. Of course, we know youth aren’t free of interpersonal crisis, financial troubles, food insecurity, abuse, suicide ideation, and any number of serious issues. In fact, we know that for many of these issues, youth are desperately in need of outreach and support. According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death during adolescence through young adulthood. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence—almost triple the national average, according to a study by the US Department of Justice. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, of the 1 in 5 people living with a mental health condition, half developed the condition by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
Taking that first step to ask for help or advice is tough for anyone. But for teens, expecting that first contact to come in the form of a phone call is even harder. People under 25 are digital natives, meaning they grew up with communication technology like live chat, texting, social media, and other chat apps. Use of these mediums comes naturally to them while voice calling may feel more awkward and less convenient, unnatural even. A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center on teens, technology, and friendships found that teens reserve phone calls for their closest friends, while they prefer building new friendships over text messaging. It takes a level of established trust and familiarity for them to talk over the phone with someone. So, think of your helpline as a new friend. It’s less likely that a young person will dial the phone to talk about a problem or sensitive issue with you, but they may be willing to text you or chat with you.
Privacy and Anonymity
Unfortunately, no matter how common and normal someone’s personal struggle may be, they may feel embarrassed or ashamed about it. There is an enormous effort across many different industries—suicide prevention, mental health, intimate partner or sexual violence to name a few—focused on removing the stigma and societal judgment associated with these issues. While those efforts are certainly helping, shame remains a barrier to getting help for many people in need of assistance. They may have a tough time saying aloud what they’re going through. They may be afraid that someone will overhear the conversation. Think of a LGBTQIA teen who is working through their identity and struggling with how or when to come out to friends or family. They may be very averse to making a phone call that could easily be overheard by parents, siblings, or friends. Or, consider a young woman who has recently been raped or sexually assaulted by someone she knew and thought she could trust. She could be feeling shocked, betrayed, and may even be blaming herself. In these and other scenarios, the person is likely feeling scared and vulnerable, and being able to type about it privately, silently, and anonymously with a caring and confidential source may be much more appealing than making a call.
Sometimes the need for silent communication isn’t so much about preference as it is about self-preservation. Voice communication could actually prove dangerous in certain situations. A few years ago there was a very powerful ad shown during the Superbowl by the group NO MORE. The ad featured shots of the interior of a home in disarray, with items knocked over and strewn on the floor. As we see these visuals we hear a recorded 9-1-1 call between a woman and an operator, though oddly the woman is trying to order a pizza. At first confused and taken aback, the 9-1-1 operator realizes that the woman’s “pizza” call is a ploy to foil an abusive partner because she is unable to call out for help but needs an officer to visit the home. You can watch the ad here.
The ad reminds us of the importance of silent communication for the purposes of safety in certain scenarios, and even 9-1-1 and other emergency centers are responding by text-enabling their services. Not all situations are as dire as the one shown in the ad where there is an active, life-threatening attack. While some may need a silent way to request active rescue, others may need to reach out to discretely chat or exchange SMS messages about their abuse to receive emotional support and empowerment without their abuser overhearing, which could escalate the situation and cause harm.
When providing a community service, it’s important to be inclusive and mindful of the needs of different groups and cultures and mitigate potential access barriers. The Deaf community and people with disabilities in particular can become isolated from essential services when their needs aren’t accommodated.
Offering assistance through live chat and texting can ease the path for people who are disabled or deaf. When someone has a disability affecting their speech in some way, verbal communication can not only be less therapeutic, but it can add frustration to their situation. However, they may find written communication a viable alternative. And, while there are interpretation services such as video relay available to the Deaf community, many would prefer to communicate directly with a helpline counselor without a third party present, especially when discussing sensitive or private issues. Written communication directly between the deaf person and an organization’s volunteer or staff member may help them feel more connected with the agency and, by extension, any plans, referrals, or problem-solving strategies they arrived at with the specialist’s help.
Adding new communication channels to your service offerings requires a culture shift and open mind among leadership, program managers, and frontline staff alike. While there are some who need convincing, we hope by now the evidence is clear: Use of communication channels like chat or SMS/texting is not a passing fad. They have become widely adopted, permanent fixtures in our society. Offering these service alternatives is not just smart business practice needed to remain relevant, but a vital form of outreach to populations that find themselves cut off from needed services only offered on traditional channels.
Are you stressed?
DMAX Foundation has launched its “Everybody Has Stress Survey.” Tell us what stresses you out, how you cope, and who you talk to about it. Take our survey, and you can find out what others who have already taken the survey think AND you could have a chance to win: www.dmaxfoundation.org/survey
If you feel stressed, you are not alone. According to the American Institute of Stress, 73% of Americans regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress. The definition of stress is hard to pin down, but most people associate stress with the negative thoughts and feelings it causes which can result in anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, anger, and difficulty regulating emotions.
What’s worse is that chronic stress can lead to serious chronic auto-immune diseases, hormonal imbalances, and weight gain. And what a cruel cycle this causes, as worry over health is the #3 largest stressor among Americans, after Job (#1) and Money (#2). Yes, stressing about your health can lead to illness, which will in turn increase your stress about health.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 70 percent of mental health conditions, including anxiety from stress, have an onset before age 24. Research reveals that over the past 12 months, 61% of college students have felt overwhelming anxiety, 39% have felt so depressed they can’t function and 12% have contemplated suicide. Yet college counseling services are often overburdened and understaffed. College students need alternative resources to help them with the difficult emotional concerns that late adolescence and young adulthood often bring.
DMAX Foundation is establishing DMAX Clubs on college campuses as trusting environments for students to have honest everyday conversations about mental health so they can understand and help each other. DMAX Clubs help reduce the sense of isolation and hopelessness for students who may be suffering from mental or emotional issues and can’t or don’t seek the help they need.
Do you know a college student who might be interested in a DMAX Club:
Starting a new Club at their college? Joining an existing Club at Penn State University Park, Temple, Drexel or Elon? Would you like to be involved with DMAX Foundation as a volunteer, donor or sponsor?
Email us at email@example.com or visit www.dmaxfoundation.org
If you think the media does a poor job covering sexual violence today, check out how it was done 45 years ago, when BARCC was founded. Few media outlets wrote about sexual assault and when they did, the language is rudimentary and lacks nuance—a direct reflection of the fact that up until the rape crisis center movement of the 1970s, U.S. society had yet to grapple in a meaningful way with an epidemic of sexual violence that we are still living with today.
The Boston Globe’s coverage of BARCC’s opening consists of six short paragraphs devoid of context, statistics, survivor stories, or even quotes from the founders. The piece assumes that the only people in need of services are women.
Fortunately, as survivors and advocates broke the silence surrounding sexual violence and educated the public, law enforcement, policy makers, and the media on the issue, our vocabulary expanded and made its way to the mainstream. Now, major media outlets consider nuances like when to use the term “survivor” rather than “victim.” Journalism watchdogs and other stakeholders have created resources to aid reporters in reporting on sexual violence. Colleges and universities publish vocabulary lists to contextualize their sexual assault response and prevention work, defining terms like “affirmative consent” and “bystander intervention” for the campus community. And social media is amplifying the unfiltered voices of hundreds of thousands of survivors through viral phenomena like the #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #BelieveSurvivors movements.
But change like this takes time, and we see evidence of that in coverage of sexual violence through the years. Consider this 1977 headline from a Boston Globe front page story:
Written early in her career by Judy Foreman, now the author of several books and a highly regarded medical specialist and science writer, the piece opens: “Rape isn’t supposed to happen to nice, quiet people who leave the city for the suburbs. Even more important, rape is not supposed to be talked about, even if it happens. That kind of hysteria is for city people.”
Buried deeper in the story was the less sensational—and more important—truth of the matter: “What is clearly happening is that the taboos surrounding rape and sexual assault, the shrouds of silence in which rape was hidden in suburbia, are falling away under the combined pressure of new state laws and the growing demand for rape crisis services.”
In July 1981, the biased and myth-laden media coverage of a case in which three Boston physicians were convicted of raping a nurse prompted BARCC to hold a press conference to point out problems with the reporting. Among other complaints, BARCC’s Aileen O’Neill blasted the media for identifying and sympathizing with the defendants while ignoring the “effects of rape and the trial experience on the woman,” according to Globe coverage of the press conference.
A week before the press conference, for example, the Globe had published a story headlined, “For 3 Doctors, Future Is Uncertain,” that detailed the financial, employment, and personal troubles that had befallen the convicted rapists, quoting their attorneys and family members—including a parent who portrayed his son as the victim: “The stigma, the emotion, the trauma, is something you can’t forget,” he said of his son’s rape conviction.
Of course, we still see this focus on the harm done to perpetrators when they are held to account for their actions. The most prominent recent example is probably that of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University student who was convicted of having raped a 23-year-old woman on the school’s campus in 2015. Turner’s father petitioned the court to sentence him to probation, writing, “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” Although his crime was punishable by up to 14 years in prison, the judge in the case sentenced Turner to six months (he served just three), citing the “severe impact” that prison would have on Turner.
More favorable shifts in tone and balance were evident by the 1990s and 2000s, when media championed the privacy rights of sexual assault survivors who sought mental health treatment as part of their recovery. Coverage of the issue was prompted by a Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruling in favor of making survivors’ records available to defendants in a 1991 ruling and another 2000 decision prompted by BARCC’s refusal to hand over a rape victim’s records to her accuser.
With each ruling, in addition to reporting that focused primarily on how the ruling would affect sexual assault survivors as opposed to how it would serve defendants, media gave ample space to critics of the decisions.
After the 1991 ruling, Boston Globe columnist Bella English wrote a scathing critique that featured the voices of survivors and advocates, including then–BARCC Executive Director Sharon Vardatira. The “dubious ruling” robbed survivors of hard-won privacy rights, English wrote. “A defense attorney is not going to subpoena a victim’s psychiatric record to ‘determine if she had motive to lie,’ as the SJC naively believes. A defense attorney is looking for dirt, period, whether it’s relevant or not.”
After the ruling against BARCC in 2000, the Globe not only published an op-ed by then–BARCC Executive Director Charlene Allen, it also editorialized that the SJC had “unnecessarily lowered the bar for protecting” the privacy rights of rape victims against due-process claims by defendants. “What happens now?” asked the Globe. “To protect clients, crisis centers may keep even less detailed written records, so they have less to surrender—even though this threatens to hurt the continuity of care.”
Such concern for sexual assault survivors is a far cry from sympathetic coverage of convicted rapists. Though we still have far to go in dismantling a culture that enables sexual violence, it’s clear that the conversation about sexual assault has shifted in a direction more favorable to survivors.
Today, BARCC is a go-to source for reporters covering issues related to sexual violence. We regularly share our expertise in media outlets, including national publications like the Hill and Huffington Post, as well as local outlets like NBC Boston, WBUR, and of course, the Globe.
And though we need to do it less now than in the past, we speak up against unbalanced or misleading coverage when we see it—because continuing the conversation is how culture change happens.
This article first appeared on the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) website and is reprinted with permission from the staff at Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. The views and opinions expressed in guest blogs are those of the guest blog author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic and iCarol.
We are currently seeking a qualified candidate to fill the role of Software Developer Web / ASP.Net / C# and join our Technology Team in their downtown Toronto office. To learn more about this position and to start the application process, please click here.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Lake County, Ohio is currently seeking candidates for two open positions:
Mental Health Ombudsman
- Listening to concerns or complaints and helping find solutions
- Providing information, guidance and referral to resources
- Helping clients navigate the system, especially when they are receiving services from more than one provider
- Coaching relative to working well with service providers and effective self-advocacy
- Connecting people with NAMI programs and other support services in Lake County
- Overseeing NAMI’s Help Line, information and resources, client rights, quality improvement, and certification processes
Click here to learn more and find out how to apply
- Work with executive director on Family Co-occurring Disorder Education Program
- Coordinate all facets of carrying out the Family Co-occurring Disorder Education Program
- Data management. Manages and reports program metrics for use in monthly/annual reports, funding requests and
- Assist with planning and coordinating Quarterly Education Presentations
- Cross-train with other NAMI programs and assist when necessary
- Assist in office administrative tasks such as answering phones, returning phone calls and emails
- Assist in keeping the website updated with current information on registration, or dates and times for programs
- Participate in NAMI Lake County monthly board meetings and community events
Click here to learn more and find out how to apply
At iCarol, we’re constantly rolling our new features to our software, as well as enhancements to existing features. To ensure you’re up-to-date on all the latest you can do using iCarol, we regularly hold Enhancement Review Webinars so we can share information about those enhancements with you.
Our next webinar is coming up soon — July 17, 2018 at 3pm EDT. We hope you can join us! For those who would like to attend but cannot, we will have a recording available.
Learn More and Register
Awhile back we shared our intentions to make some changes to the terminology we use when talking about certain iCarol features and capabilities. Namely, referring to “callers” or “calls” as the standard when talking about the people served and how you serve them. Before we go any further, let’s backup and review…
Recap – Why the changes?
iCarol was inspired by the volunteer experiences of our founders in a helpline environment, which were, at the time, very much rooted in call taking as the method of engaging with and helping people in need. Over the years, new technologies that lend themselves to different and expanded ways of communicating only grew in popularity and availability, and iCarol adapted as a result by enabling into the software communication channels like Live Chat, Texting/SMS, and connecting clients with services through a public website, for example Online Forms and the Public Resource Directory.
The fact is, iCarol is such a flexible solution that since the very beginning our customers have used it for far more than just phone-based work. But, much of the terminology we use when talking about our software centers around calls. For example, the functionality used to document interactions with clients and collect necessary information has historically been called “Call Reports” or “Call Report Forms,” and the area of your system where these interactions are logged is titled “Calls.” There are other examples like “Caller Profile” and “Phone Worker” being used throughout our public website and web application (aka “web app”).
We want to be more inclusive and consider the broad scope of how iCarol is actually used by our clients by using terminology that actually reflects its full potential. It’s important that we do this so that our current customers feel their work is understood and respected by the iCarol team, but also so that potential clients understand that iCarol is the solution for them, and ensuring they don’t mistakenly think its capabilities are limited and can’t meet their organization’s needs.
What is changing?
After surveying our clients and having internal discussions, we have settled on some new terminology to transition to:
It’s important to note that these changes are cosmetic only, and none of these changes should impact the way iCarol works or how you use the software to complete tasks.
|Calls (as seen on the left main menu of iCarol)
|Call Report or Call Report Form
||Contact Form/Contact Record
||Vol/Staff, Volunteer or Staff, Worker
||Help seeker, Person in need, Client
When will these changes occur?
We have already begun making changes throughout our public website to reflect the broader scope of how people can and do use iCarol. You may also notice these newer terms on our blogs and other public-facing content, and they may be used by members of our team when they’re answering your questions or working with you on Support cases.
In regards to the iCarol software that you sign into and use each day, changing terms there will take longer to implement. We are still in the process of analyzing all the areas that need to change, and we will then decide what areas to prioritize and organize our efforts before any changes will begin. When we do begin changing terms in web app, you will find these changes will happen in phases and for a time there may be some inconsistencies, i.e. some pages use the new terms while others still use the old ones. We appreciate your patience through the process. When we know more about when you can expect to start seeing these changes in iCarol, we will communicate that on the blog and the iCarol Dashboard.
iCarol offers multiple ways for you to retrieve the data you put into your system. You can use our Statistics area to access dozens of available-on-demand charts and graphs that present information that our clients most commonly need to meet their reporting requirements. You can also apply numerous filters to these reports, drilling directly in to uncover the desired information. This area is a sufficient source of information for most of your basic reporting needs.
But, we understand that others may want or need to run cross tabulations, pivot tables, or otherwise customize their reporting experience a bit further. Our users can extract their raw data files for further analysis in external programs like Microsoft Access or Excel, or simply export the data for offline storage. These data tables contain every last detail about activities like your shifts, volunteer and staff profiles, the records in your resource database, and contact records including the data from contact record text entry fields, among other activities.
Our philosophy is this: The data you put into iCarol is YOUR data— we are simply the stewards of it by keeping it stored and protected for you, and so of course you should have access to it as needed. Many of our users choose to go to the Admin Tools area of iCarol to export this data on a regular basis. However, this does require taking a few steps to initiate the download, then waiting for the export to complete before you can begin your analysis.
We’ve created an enhancement to the Admin Tools export area: Scheduled Exports. Using this feature, our users can schedule an automatic export to occur. This export can be delivered in your iCarol system just as the manual exports, or you can set a path to a S/FTP that you’ve provided for this data to be delivered to.
Each iCarol customer is allotted one free monthly scheduled export to use in their system.
This feature is also available as a subscription — you may add on several scheduled exports to your iCarol system for a nominal monthly cost. When you subscribe to this feature, you may choose from multiple time frames for the scheduled exports to occur: Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, or Annually. If you find yourself needing to export information on a repeat basis throughout your reporting cycles, having these files exported automatically is a convenient and time-saving solution.
To add your free monthly scheduled export, log into iCarol and navigate to the Help area to read our detailed Help Articles with step-by-step instructions (simply search for “Scheduled Export”).
And, if you want to save even more time and have more exports automatically delivered on a recurring basis, open a case with the Support Team to get started!
The 2018 National Crisis Center Conference (aka “CrisisCon18”) invites crisis centers to submit proposals for presentations for the “Gateway to Gold: Setting the Standard” conference which will be held October 17-19, 2018 in St. Louis, MO. To submit a proposal, click here. Deadline is July 11, 2018. The conference is hosted by the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors and CONTACT USA.
The National Crisis Center Conference presented by CONTACT USA and NASCOD is 4 months away! Details about the conference including conference and hotel registration can be found at http://www.crisiscon.org/. Early bird registration will end August 17th so register now to receive the early bird discount.
This year’s conference will be from October 17th – 19th in St. Louis, Missouri. The conference includes 3 days of best practices, intensive trainings, and networking opportunities with crisis center leaders and managers from around the country.
For those that have not attended a conference before, it is a great way to network with other centers, meet new people, connect with colleagues, as well as learn and share pertinent crisis work information.
Call for papers is now open as well. If you are interested in presenting, please submit your presentation proposal at: http://www.crisiscon.org/program.html. Deadline for submission is Wednesday, July 11th.
Questions? Please contact Gail Selander, CONTACT USA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.