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Deadline Extended for AAS21 Call for Papers

The 54th Annual Conference of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is scheduled to be held in Orlando, Florida, April 21-24, 2021, with pre-conference workshops taking place on April 21st. The event will offer a mix of in-person and virtual content with a theme of “Social Contexts in Suicide: Upstream Perspectives on Theory, Research, and Prevention.”

AAS has extended the Call for Papers deadline to November 15, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. They invite proposals for individual papers, posters, panel discussions, symposia, and workshops, and are also accepting presentations for several preconference programs:

  • AAS Preconference Workshops
  • Crisis Services Continuum Conference
  • Postvention Preconference
  • Military and Veteran Suicide Prevention Preconference

Proposals must follow specific guidelines and be submitted online to receive consideration. Abstracts that do not conform to the guidelines may not be reviewed. Applicants will be asked to select keywords identifying key elements of the submission, and those keywords will be used to index the conference program.

Submit Your Paper

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Three-digit national suicide hotline becomes law in the US

man making call with mobile phone

President Donald Trump recently signed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act into law in the United States, a move celebrated by mental health and suicide prevention advocates. The act assigns 9-8-8 as a national, three-digit number dedicated to suicide prevention and mental health crisis response. The number will become active and available in 2022.

This law signals a recognition that mental health crises are just as important and deserve the same emergency response as the medical emergencies which are reported to their own national three-digit number, 9-1-1.

The law does not create a new service, as the US already has a national number for suicide prevention. Instead, this new law creates a the pathway for a new, easier way for people to reach existing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services available through the existing Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a service provided by a network of about 170 local crisis centers around the country.

Once three-digit dialing is activated in 2022, experts anticipate that call volume to the crisis centers will increase. The new law creates funding and resources for local crisis centers that will enable them to meet this demand. And, similar to nominal fees charged that support 9-1-1 services, the law will give states the authority to levy fees on wireless bills to support the 9-8-8 service.

The iCarol team applauds Congress and the President of the United States for making three-digit dialing for suicide prevention a reality after years of advocacy by mental health and suicide prevention experts. We have no doubt that the establishment of 9-8-8 will make it easier for people in crisis to reach assistance and receive help. As the software provider for many of the Lifeline crisis centers, iCarol pledges to monitor the progress of 9-8-8 activation, and provide assistance and support to our customers throughout this process.

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National Council on Problem Gambling Main Conference: November 5-6 and 12-13

How is the global Coronavirus pandemic affecting mental health providers, clients, and the gambling industry? Are you interested in learning more about gambling addiction and responsible gambling?

Join international experts and attendees from around the world at the virtual National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) National Conference, November 5-6 and 12-13. Virtual sessions will run from 12 to 4 pm EST with optional networking from 4 pm to 5pm.

The conference is the oldest and largest gathering that brings together local, national and international experts, professionals and individuals to discuss and learn about responsible gambling and problem gambling.

A wide range of topics will be presented, with something for experts and relative newcomers alike with content on public health, community, prevention, treatment, advocacy, recovery, research, regulatory, and the gambling industry, including online gambling, sports betting, military and veterans issues, and specific populations. Recordings of each day’s sessions will be available to registrants for at least 30 days.

Registration starts at $63/day – or less for groups 3 or more. Discounts available for NCPG members! 14 CEs, NAADAC approved.

Visit www.ncpgambling.org/national-conference/34th-mainonline/ to learn more and register!

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Canadian 211 Service Available Nationwide Following Expanded Government Funding

The Government of Canada recently approved funding that will expand 211 services to the entire country.

With this investment, residents of Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador will now be able to call 211 and reach trained specialists that can direct them to critical government and community-based health and social services in their community. 211 has been available in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and most of Quebec.

The Canadian 211 service offers listening support, information and referral assistance on a variety of topics including mental health and addiction, employment, food insecurity, financial instability, disaster response, services for older adults and those with disabilities, and a number of other topics. With specialists able to listen, assess needs and eligibility, and then direct consumers to all appropriate services to meet those needs during a single interaction, 211 serves as a front door or “one stop shop” for those seeking services and mitigates the stress on individuals and families facing a crisis.

The funding expansion is related to the country’s COVID-19 response. During the first wave of Coronavirus infections in the country, 211 centres across Canada saw a dramatic increase in the number of people reaching out for assistance. Call volume increased by 31% and website visits increased by 45% in the March to August timeframe.

iCarol is proud to partner with 211 Canada by providing software solutions that 211 centres use to document interactions with help seekers, curate information about community services and share those resources with consumers, collaborate with community-based organizations, manage their staff and schedules, and more. iCarol applauds the Government of Canada for investing in these services that Canadians need now more than ever before.

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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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Parents Anonymous Adopts iCarol Software to Support Expanded Hours and Services

iCarol recently welcomed Parents Anonymous® to our family of customers. Founded in 1969, Parents Anonymous® delivers meaningful parent leadership, effective mutual support, Successful Shared Leadership®, and long-term personal growth and change for parents, children and youth, through their numerous programs.

Parents Anonymous® adopted iCarol software for use in their National Parent Helpline, which provides parents with emotional support from trained Advocates, to help them become empowered and stronger parents. Parents Anonymous® also operates the California Parent & Youth Helpline® which was launched in partnership with California Governor Gavin Newsom as part of his initiative to address the impacts of COVID-19.

As parents navigate new and difficult challenges, Parents Anonymous® has expanded the helpline’s hours of operation and the types of helpline services available to meet parents’ needs while coping with the impacts of COVID-19. The iCarol software has helped Parents Anonymous® carefully collect critical data that enables them to deliver services and conduct necessary reporting. They are using iCarol’s integrated SMS/Texting capabilities to meet parents on the convenient communication channels they need most while kids’ normal routines are disrupted and parents are juggling varied and competing responsibilities. Parents Anonymous® has made it even easier for parents to reach them by text-enabling their existing, well-known national helpline number, allowing parents to text the same familiar number that is used for voice calls. And connecting parents with the resources and referrals they need is now a streamlined process, regardless of whether a parent reaches them by phone or SMS/Texting, thanks to iCarol’s integrated resource and referral database.

Now, more than ever, parents need emotional support, education, and information, and so we are honored and proud to be working with this premier family strengthening organization. For more information about Parents Anonymous® visit www.parentsanonymous.org.

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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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iCarol virtually exhibiting at first ever AIRS E-conference

iCarol is very proud and excited to be an exhibitor at the first ever virtual Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) E-Conference being held September 16-18.

The AIRS Conference is one of our favorite events of the year, so we’re very excited to take part in their virtual event beginning today. While things are a bit different this year, we are thrilled to see how resilient and adaptive the I&R community has been in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst handling a record number of requests for their services the organizations and professionals in this space have found ways to innovate and reach even more people, often while working remotely.

For agencies serving older adults and those with disabilities, another industry highly active at this conference, they serve a population that is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, who still require social connections and other services while maintaining social distance. Aging organizations have stepped up in amazing ways to provide consistency and reassurance.

Of course, it’s really no surprise to us that these industries have been so responsive to unprecedented challenges – 2-1-1s and I&R professionals are famous for their ability to find creative solutions to almost any challenge!

At our booth this week we have lots of information to share about our *NEW* iCarol features that empower 2-1-1s and other I&R services to:

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

In the weeks, months, and even years ahead, communities will continue to face hardships around finances, housing, employment, food insecurity, and access to healthcare as a result of this pandemic. We hope during these busy few days of virtually learning at AIRS attendees will find time to stop by our 2-1-1 services booth or Older Adult and Disability services booth and learn about all the latest solutions iCarol has to offer to help 2-1-1s, Aging and Disability services, and other Information and Referral centers meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

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Research Study: Improving Volunteer Retention at Child Helplines By Increasing Satisfaction on Interactions

Guest Blogger Josh Siegel is a PhD Candidate at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on service provider well-being. After earning a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, he moved to Amsterdam, where he obtained a Master’s degree.

Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic/iCarol, or iCarol’s parent company, Harris Computer Systems.

Child helplines offer support and information to children for a wide variety of issues such as abuse and violence, bullying, sexuality, family, homelessness, health and discrimination. As such, child helplines fulfill the United Nations mandate that all children be heard. In 2017, child helplines in 146 countries received over 24 million contacts from children in need of care and protection, and these numbers are rising rapidly. To help meet this growing demand, helplines have introduced online chat as another method of communication. To perform well in this challenging and evolving context, helplines invest a substantial part of their budget into training volunteers extensively on how to provide social support to each child in the form of instrumental (e.g. advice) and emotional (e.g. empathy) support. Like many other non-governmental organizations, child helplines face the challenges of limited resources and volunteer turnover. Volunteers at child helplines play an important role in providing support for children, so keeping them satisfied during encounters is crucial to continue helping children. The purpose of our study was to understand how children’s perceptions of instrumental and emotional support influence volunteer encounter satisfaction, and whether this effect is moderated by a volunteer’s previous encounter experience and levels of interpersonal and service-offering adaptiveness.

Motivation:

From discussions with child helplines, I learned that volunteer turnover is a common concern. The goal of the research was learning how to retain volunteers by keeping them satisfied in their roles. The academic literature about helplines and counseling has found sources of volunteer satisfaction like personal development, and social support from colleagues. However, I was surprised to find that little academic research has explored how volunteers may derive satisfaction from their interactions with children. Since volunteers spend a majority of their shifts talking with children, it seemed like a good place to investigate.

Summary of findings:

When a volunteer feels dissatisfied after a chat with a child, how does this experience affect the volunteer’s next chat?

What was really interesting in this study, is that we were able to collect data from both the child and the volunteer after each chat that they had. This allowed us to understand how a child’s perceptions of the chat influenced the volunteer’s experience. Let me explain what we found.

When volunteers had a chat that they experienced as less satisfying, they felt more satisfied with the next chat, especially when they were able to provide the next child with information and referrals. In our study, we call this providing “instrumental support” and we asked the children the extent to which they felt they received this type of support from the helpline volunteer (children’s perceptions).

The other type of social support we looked into was emotional support. This is like active listening and just trying to help children feel better without directly trying to solve their problems. Unlike instrumental support, providing emotional support in the next chat did not improve volunteer satisfaction after a less satisfying chat.

We think that volunteers might provide instrumental support to feel better. When you’re feeling down, you can feel better by assisting someone because it feels good to help.

We also asked volunteers to rate their own “interpersonal adaptiveness.” It indicates how easy it is for volunteers to adjust how they communicate with each child. For instance, they might change their vocabulary to match a child’s or adjust their personality based on what they think the child needs. We found that those volunteers who feel they are good in interpersonal adaptiveness, were more satisfied when providing instrumental support. Another thing that volunteers do is adapt the support they provide to each child. For some volunteers, it is easier to customize the information or referrals to specifically fit each child’s situation. This is referred to as “service-offering adaptiveness” in our paper. We thought that this would mean some volunteers are better able to detect cues from children. And in doing so, their satisfaction would be more dependent on the cues they picked up from each child. However, we found the opposite. Our results showed that satisfaction for volunteers with higher “service-offering adaptiveness” was actually less affected by providing instrumental support.

Based on our findings, what can helplines do to help volunteers remain satisfied during their encounters with children?

    Finding: Volunteers are more satisfied when children believe they received lots of instrumental support.
    Suggested Action: Volunteers should have easy access to the helpline’s resources in order to provide the best information, advice, and referrals to children.

    Finding: It is important to be aware that a volunteer’s experience with one encounter influences the next encounter.
    Suggested Action: There should be sufficient support for volunteers after a less satisfying encounter. We recommend a feedback tool that would help volunteers to “cool off” after one of these chats or even allow a colleague or manager to help volunteers with the next chat.

    Finding: Since volunteer satisfaction increases when children are happy with the support provided, it is important that volunteers are able to detect children’s perceptions.
    Suggested Action: To help volunteers understand children’s perceptions throughout a chat, we propose that a monitoring system would be helpful. Such a system could highlight keywords in the chat that would signal whether the volunteer should provide more instrumental support and/or emotional support.

Further reading and sourcing: Siegel, J. and van Dolen, W. (2020), “Child helplines: exploring determinants and boundary conditions of volunteer encounter satisfaction”, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSM-05-2019-0200

Call for collaboration:

The project I am currently working on investigates how helpline counselors manage multiple live chats / SMS conversations simultaneously and how doing so can affect their wellbeing. My goal is to identify ways for enhancing counselor wellbeing by determining how and when it is best to handle more than one interaction simultaneously in order to prevent either feeling overloaded or bored.

I am looking for a helpline with a focus on serving youth and children that would be willing to help me collect data from volunteers and counselors about their experiences with each interaction. I would also like to talk with helpline managers and counselors about their experiences, concerns, and ideas to find out how else we can collaborate. In addition to an academic article as output of this research, I would write a management report for the helpline which discusses the findings and recommendations for helpline managers.

If you are interested in collaborating, please contact me at j.siegel@uva.nl

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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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