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iCarol presents at Child Helpline International’s Global Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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Recognizing Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadians share their thoughts on Remembrance Day

Studies Link Mental Issues and the Rigor of the Military

US Department of Veterans Affairs: Mental Health Facts and Resources

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

Relieving veterans’ PTSD through horses, water — even yoga

Suicide claims more Canadian soldiers than those killed by Afghan combat

Remembrance Day — Get Involved

9 Simple Ways You Can Help Veterans

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iCarol clients in the news

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

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

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

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Come see our team at CUSA/NASCOD Conference this week

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

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

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

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

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iCarol’s new Automated Verification Response Screen

Recently, the responses screen in the automated verification tool has been updated and expanded to add more tools to make it even easier for you to manage your verifications. Please read on to learn more about the tools now available on this screen.

The screen is laid out in a table format, with several columns of information. You can reorder any of the columns (alphabetically or by date, depending on the data in the column) by clicking the up or down arrow beside the name of each column. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, there is a search box, so you can search for particular data by resource name, resource type, date, email address or a person’s name.

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You will note there is a column titled “Assigned To”. When an individual sends a verification request, that request and the subsequent responses are assigned to that person. In this way, you can divide the responsibility for automated verification requests and responses between several people. Using the check boxes next to the Resource Name and the “Reassign” button at the bottom of the screen, you can reassign the responses to another worker if you wish. Please also note there is a Delete button at the bottom of the screen. You can use the check boxes next to the Resource Name and this button to Delete particular responses if you wish.

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Also at the bottom of the screen, there are some settings you can use to filter the data in the table. To access these settings, click the link “Show settings”. “Show Verification Responses for” allows you to filter the list to show only those verification responses assigned to you, or those assigned to everyone. “Show Verification Responses in” is used to filter the responses according to what status they are in. The definitions of the statuses are:

Pending A verification request has been sent, but the verifier has not responded yet.

Responded The verifier has submitted (responded to) the verification request sent to them, but the response has not yet been approved by someone at your agency.

Completed The verification response has been approved by someone at your agency.

“Include the following fields in the Results” will only appear if you are using custom resource fields. These custom fields will appear in a list so that you can filter the responses list to only include those resource records with the chosen custom field.

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Finally, in the top left corner, you can determine how many entries you would like to see per page. The default is 10, but you can change this to 25, 50 or 100. If there are multiple pages of results, you can move through each page by clicking “previous”, “next” or a page number in the lower right hand corner.

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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

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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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