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.
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.
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.
We recommend that when staff or volunteers leave your agency or discontinue service with you, that you disable their user profile rather than delete it. We recommend that you only delete a user profile if it was created by mistake, or the user has not done any “work” in iCarol (signed up for shifts, submitted call reports, created or edited resource records, etc.). This is because when you delete a user, all interaction he or she had in iCarol will no longer be attributed to them. For example, you will no longer be able to see which shifts they served, which chatboard posts they created, which call reports they submitted or which resource records they created or edited. Instead of listing a name in call reports and resource records, “unknown or deleted” will be shown. If the user is disabled, their name will remain on the interactions, but they won’t be able to sign into iCarol.
To delete a user, follow these steps:
Click on Vols-Staff in the left hand menu, and then click on the name of the person you would like to delete. Once you are in the user profile, click the edit button at the top of the screen.
The buttons at the top of the screen will change. Click the Delete button.
Warning text in red will be displayed, explaining the effects of deleting the user profile. If you delete the profile, the effect is irreversible and we cannot recover this information for you. If you are sure you want to delete the profile, click Confirm deletion.
To disable a user, follow these steps:
Click on Vols-Staff in the left hand menu, and then click on the name of the person you would like to disable. Click the Admin tab in the user’s profile, and then click the edit button at the top of the screen.
Click the drop-down menu next to iCarol Account and choose Disabled, then click the Save button at the top of the screen.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to submit a case to the iCarol Support Team!
Photo courtesy of Rich Niewiroski Jr.
In late June, officials approved a $76 million package to implement the long-debated suicide prevention nets on the Golden Gate bridge. It will still be at least three years before the nets are fully installed, but the funding approval clears a huge hurdle in the process.
Opponents of the net feel this is an inappropriate or even wasteful use of funds, stating that suicidal individuals will simply go elsewhere to take their lives or find another method. Those working in the suicide prevention industry know this isn’t true. By installing a barrier we remove access to means considered to be high lethality; methods for taking one’s life that allow very little room for intervention and possibility of survival. Bridges without a barrier allow people to take an impulsive action on their suicidal thoughts. Interviews with survivors and other studies have found that these barriers do not simply drive a person to another method. Instead it removes access to that single chosen highly lethal method and allows for more time for the person to get help.
We applaud this latest development in bringing a barrier to the Golden Gate bridge. To read more about the barrier and the reasons why these barriers work, check out these sources:
The Bridge Rail Foundation
Golden Gate barrier FAQ
Suicides Mounting, Golden Gate Looks to Add a Safety Net
Funding for Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier approved
During the summer, and other common vacation periods, staff and volunteers may need to adjust the time they serve at your agency. You want to ensure that your calendar is up-to-date with all changes and the following iCarol features are there to assist.
Unregister from a shift
If a volunteer or staff member has already signed up for or been assigned to a shift, but realizes that they cannot serve the shift, they can un-register from the shift. To do so, the volunteer or staff member will use the shifts area of iCarol to navigate to the day of their shift, and will click on their name in the list of shifts. A pink box will appear to the right, and in that box, there is an “Unregister” button which they should click.
Clicking this button will remove the person’s name from the shift, and it will revert to an “Open” shift so someone else can sign up for it.
This feature is similar to the “Unregister a shift” feature, but goes an extra step and facilitates the coverage for shift assignment changes. If a volunteer or staff member has already signed up for or been assigned to a shift, but realizes that they cannot serve the shift, they can ask for a substitution. To do so, the volunteer or staff member will use the shifts area of iCarol to navigate to the day of their shift, and will click on their name in the list of shifts. A pink box will appear to the right, and in that box, there is an “Ask for Substitution” button which they should click.
Clicking this button will send an email to all users indicating that the volunteer or staff person is looking for a substitute, and will highlight the shift in yellow so it is easily spotted. If someone would like to substitute, they would navigate to this shift in the Shifts area of iCarol, and click the Accept button.
Whether or not you allow un-registration or shift substitutions, and how soon before the start of a shift a person can unregister or ask for a substitution, are settings Admin’s can control via the Shifts tab in Admin Tools.
Exceptions to Repeating Assignments
If you have members that are assigned to the same shift over a period of time, the repeating assignment is a great tool to use. This tool allows you to collectively schedule those repeating assignments and it also handles exceptions, such as to remove the person from the shift during a particular time span when they will be on vacation. To do so, use the shifts area of iCarol to navigate to the first shift within a repeating shift assignment that they would like to unregister for and click on their name. A pink box will appear to the right, and in that box, there is a link labelled “Repeating assignment” which they should click.
This will cause the following box to pop-up:
Firstly, the volunteer or staff person should click the radio button next to “Remove”. Next, using the drop-down boxes, they should indicate what time frame (every, every other, each month’s first, etc.) and what day of the week they would like to be removed from. The date next to “between” will be defaulted to the date of the shift the volunteer or staff person is adjusting. The volunteer or staff person should adjust the date next to “and”, or check the box next to “no end date” to remove themselves from every shift into the future. Finally, they should click the “Make these changes” button.
If you have any questions about these tools, please do not hesitate to submit a case to the support team via the online case management tool, found in the Help menu in iCarol.
Donna and Eliisa recently attended the Pre-Conference symposium at the 28th National Council on Problem Gambling Conference in Orlando, FL at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. Members of our team attend conferences like this to ensure that we are on the cutting edge of the issues, challenges and experiences that helplines face.
The Florida Gambling Affiliate hosted the event. We’re happy to have just welcomed them to the iCarol family, as they went live on iCarol July 1st with phone, text and chat. One staff member said “iCarol has made my life much easier.” We love that feedback! It’s always great to hear that folks are finding their volunteer experience made easier or more enjoyable by using iCarol.
Brian Kongsvik is the Helpline Director and he did an excellent presentation on how his helpline works and the outcomes and follow up research of those that had contacted their helpline services. He reported that in his center, 79% indicated they had either stopped or decreased gambling since contacting their helpline services.
The breakout sessions gave us lots of great insight and presentations from a spectrum of sources. Donna from iCarol gave a presentation on chat and texting as well as the importance of integrated technologies. Anyone who has ever managed a helpline knows how easy it is to fall into the trap of using quick technology fixes to get by day by day. At the surface, you think it doesn’t cost you anything to do a quick update on a computer here and there, or utilize someone’s expertise to add a field into a form quickly, but soon you find yourself only able to do the report you need on one computer in the office and using a multi-step process utilizing many people every month just to do your routine monthly reports. The group was actively engaged, and for some the story of this vicious cycle hit a little too close to home! Integrated technologies like iCarol can help stop this cycle.
Bensinger, Dupont & Associates did a demo of iCarol’s live chat feature, which they use for several problem gambling live chat sites around the country. They noted they like the customizable programming to fit their unique needs.
Peer support networks and websites that people are accessing for help with problem gambling, other than calling, texting, and live chatting into helpline services, were discussed. Experts include GamTalk (Canada) and Gambling Therapy (UK). Both offer services run by licensed mental health professionals, with peer support from those in recovery from gambling addiction. These organizations offer a community (often anonymously) whereby they can build support communities around them.
The group also discussed the decrease of phone calls across the country to problem gambling helplines in the US. Among all the addictions, it was noted that those with a gambling addiction have the highest completed suicide rate among any other addiction. As such, those attending the pre-conference were fortunate to be given an opportunity to be trained in QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer). Best practices in advertising were shared, with some noting that billboards near casinos work well.
Unfortunately some heavy rain moved the welcome reception sponsored by the Seminole Tribe of Florida indoors instead of outside by the gorgeous pool area, but it didn’t detract the crowd or the fun. We had such a great time meeting so many of you from the various NCPG affiliates and gambling helplines. And of course to the new friends we made if you want to learn more about iCarol we’d love to hear from you. Give us a call,
or join an upcoming webinar to learn more about us and our features.
In iCarol, we offer a resource structure, or hierarchy, called Agency, Program, Site. If you’d like to learn more about this structure, you can download our guide about this information. The Agency – Program – Site hierarchy in iCarol follows the structure recommended by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) and is most often used by those agencies using the AIRS taxonomy. Using this structure, at the 3rd or 4th level, (the 4th level being programatsite), has an effect on which information is displayed when viewing agency and program records within iCarol.
An agency is a legally recognized organization that delivers services. (edit screen identified by a grey ribbon)
The agency is the main location of the resource where the administrative functions occur, where the organization’s director is generally housed and where it is licensed for business. An agency may or may not deliver direct services from this location.
Sites are the physical locations (eg. branches) from which clients access services provided by an agency. (edit screen identified by blue ribbon)
If only one locations exists, all information may be stored in the agency record. If multiple sites exist, then ALL information recommended for Site must be stored there, since those fields will be displayed instead of the agency version.
The display hierarchy is: Program-at-Site (if using) Site / Program (if using)/ Agency (if a piece of information exists at all three levels, Site info will display
A service/program record describes the types of assistance/service an agency delivers to its clients. (edit screen identified by green ribbon)
If only one program exists for an agency, all information may be stored in the agency record for that resource.
Program-at-Site contains specific details about a program that are available at a site. (edit screen identified by beige ribbon)
It is helpful to understand what information from which type of record (agency, program, site or programatsite) will display so you can made educated decisions on what information to place in each record so that referrals given to your callers as an accurate as possible.
Our Support Team can provide you with an Excel document that shows what information will be displayed when viewing agency and program records. There are two tabs in the Excel document, one for those using the three level hierarchy (agency, program, site), and one for those using the 4 level hierarchy (agency, program, site, programatsite). If you’d like us to send you this document, please open a Case with support using the Case Management tool found in the Help section of your iCarol system.
We mentioned recently that at this year’s AIRS conference a workshop called Resource Database Assembly: The Next Generation provided some inspiration in making a measurement available within iCarol that calculates the complexity of your resource database. We have now added this tool to iCarol.
Resource Complexity is a concept first suggested by several AIRS luminaries. By using approximations, it is used to calculate how complex your resource database is and how many hours per year it would take to manage them using the AIRS standards. For each Agency record, it gets 1 point for every Site record and 2 points for every Program record belonging to it. The Agencies are then grouped by their point score into the following categories:
Simple: 0-10 points
Moderate: 11-20 points
Difficult: 21-40 points
Complex: 41 points and higher
Once grouped and counted, you then assume an average number of hours per year for a trained worker to manage those resources, as follows:
Simple: 1-5 hours (average of 2.5 hours)
Moderate: 5-10 hours (average of 7.5 hours)
Difficult: 10-20 hours (average of 15 hours)
Complex: 20-40 hours (average of 30 hours)
With the total number of hours calculated to manage your entire database, you can then estimate how many Full Time Equivalent employees you may need to manage your database. There are 2,080 hours in a standard work year (40 hours per week for 52 weeks) but the hours available to an employee are usually less than that to account for vacation, sick days, training, meetings and other administrative work that will reduce their hours available to do resource database management.
To use this tool, simply navigate to Statistics and click on the Resources tab. The values for the assumptions of Resource Database Complexity described earlier obviously greatly affect the calculations. They have been in use by a major US 211 center since 2009, who claim they very accurately predict workload. Your own results may vary. If you would like this tool to allow you to modify these assumptions, you can contact our Support team using the Case Management tool found in the Help section of your iCarol system.
A large chunk of time spent managing records according to AIRS standards involves keeping those resources up-to-date. When records are regularly checked for accuracy and updated, you know your clients are receiving helpful, good information. This reduces the frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed experienced by those who may already be in crisis or an otherwise difficult situation. Even a database full of records rated as “simple” will take thousands of work hours to manage.
If you check your database’s complexity and feel overwhelmed at the number of hours it may take to keep your database in check, then it’s time to consider iCarol’s Automated Verification tool. With this upgrade you can seek out the resource records that need to be verified using the same search tools as you would to give referrals, with the additional tool of date parameters showing when the records were last verified. Next, automatically send an authorized worker of that agency or program an email asking them to review the information you have on file and make suggestions or updates. They’ll be given a peek at the information as it exists in your live database so they can make those suggestions. Finally, your Resource Manager can review this information and choose to accept what’s been submitted or make some of their own tweaks first, and then apply the update to the resource record. What might have taken weeks of phone tag to accomplish has been squashed down to a fraction of the time. To find out more about Automated Verification and how it can assist you with keeping your resources updated, sign in to your iCarol system and check out the video.
We hope you enjoy this new ability to view the complexity of the resources in your iCarol database and that it helps you analyze your staffing needs pertaining to keeping your Resource Database accurate and up-to-date.
Often times our clients who do Information & Referral (I&R) need to export some or all of their resource or referral database to share with a third party. And while all Admins have access to the Data Export tool that gives them an Excel-readable export of all records and all fields, a more refined approach is needed for specific requests. For example, you might need to create a nicely formatted Microsoft Word document of just the Child Day Care providers in a particular city and just with a handful of informational fields. Or you might need to create an Excel listing of Food Pantries that serve Veterans in a three-county area. As well, you need to produce both of these files once per month and distribute them to your partners.
You can imagine that laboriously exporting all of your resource data and then laboriously removing fields and rows, then formatting it just the way you want to, could be very time consuming – especially if you have to do it on an ongoing basis.
That’s where iCarol’s Specialized Resource Exports to Word and Excel comes to the rescue. With it, you can create an unlimited number of “templates” with a targeted set of conditions and formatting to export just the resource data you want to Word or Excel, and have it formatted in the font type and size of your choice.
You start by naming a new template, choosing either Word or Excel, and indicating what record types (Agency, Program, Site) you want to be included.
Next you specify which standard and custom fields you want included.
Then you add any filters you would like to limit the exported records. Geographic filters indicate that records physically located within, or that are designated to serve, one or more areas are the records to be included. These areas can be as small as single postal codes, towns, cities, counties, regions, states/provinces or entire countries. You can even mix and match a number of different types of geographic areas.
Depending on what sort of categorization scheme you use – the AIRS Taxonomy or your own custom categorization – you can also add filters to include only those resources that area assigned to one or more of those categories.
In addition to the many standard fields available for resources in iCarol, many of our clients add their own custom fields. For any that are either drop-down lists or check-boxes, they too can be added as filters to confine the resources included in the export down to just those assigned to one or more of these custom fields.
After you’ve saved one of these templates, at any time you can tell iCarol to perform an export based on its definition and within a few minutes you’ll have the file ready for your download, use and distribution. As well, we’ve structured the Word documents to make it easy for you to add your own title pages, tables of content, indexes, headers, footers and more. That makes it easy to include the content in a larger document and brand it with your agency’s identifying information.
If you’d like to add Specialized Resource Exports to your iCarol system and provide your community with targeted resource directories, contact our for more information.