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iCarol attends the American Association of Suicidology Conference

This Wednesday through Friday, members of our team will attend sessions at the American Association of Suicidology Conference, and we will also host a booth in the virtual exhibit hall.

The conference is a convergence of professionals working across the spectrum of the suicide prevention industry, from those operating crisis centers and other direct care services, to professionals working in academic settings conducting suicide prevention research, and advocates focused on prevention, education and awareness.

So we can continue to stay ahead of the topics that most impact iCarol’s customers, on Wednesday Dana will attend the Crisis Continuum pre-conference program, which concludes with a session on network updates and future directions for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network.

Having supported crisis centers since the earliest days of the Lifeline network, and serving a large portion of the network that are iCarol customers, we have witnessed the Lifeline’s growth year after year, both in the number of participating centers and the volume of contacts the Lifeline receives through calls, chats, and other forms of communication. At this year’s update we’re anticipating the latest news from the 988 transition plan and how that will affect members of the Lifeline network. We’re also closely following the continuing conversations on how communities are changing their practices around responding to mental health emergencies and similar crises, with a shift towards crisis intervention teams and other professionals leading the response as opposed to law enforcement.

These discussions directly inform iCarol’s strategy and product development in the coming months and years, which ensures we will continue to meet the needs of suicide prevention and crisis centers everywhere, providing the tools they need to do their life-saving work.

If you plan to be at the AAS Conference, please stop by our virtual booth to download our new guides and materials, including a brand new ebook on choosing software for crisis intervention and suicide prevention services. We’ll also be available for virtual meetings at your convenience to answer your questions, or have conversations about your challenges or projects and explore how iCarol can be of assistance.

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SAMHSA to hold Grants 101 Webinar for Community-Based Organizations

SAMHSA’s Office of Behavioral Health Equity has announced its Elevate CBOs Webinar Series: Grants 101, a webinar on developing a competitive SAMHSA grant application. The webinar is for community-based organizations (CBOs) serving under-resourced racial and ethnic minority, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQIA) populations. The webinar will:



  • Provide an overview of the grant application process at SAMHSA
  • Clarify what is and is not required in submitting grant applications
  • Include a question and answer session.

Date: Thursday, March 4

Time: 2:00-4:00pm Eastern

You must RSVP by Monday, March 1.

RSVP Now

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

When it comes to teens dating, many parents and guardians worry about things like their teen’s emotions or heartbreak, staying out too late, losing focus and falling behind at school, sexual activity, STDs, or teen pregnancy. And while all of those are worthy of concern for a caring parent, many do not stop to consider another big issue facing teens: Teen Dating Violence.

According to information provided by loveisrespect.org, a survey found that 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue. And though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.

This is troubling considering the problem of abusive romantic relationships between teens problem is a prevalent issue.

  • 1 in 3 high school students experience physical or sexual violence, or both, by someone they are dating
  • 10% of adolescents report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national (US) average
  • Among female victims of intimate partner violence, 94% of those age 16-19 and 70% of those age 20-24 were victimized by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18

To learn more about Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, visit:

Happy 2-1-1 Day!

Each year, February 11th is celebrated as 2-1-1 day throughout North America.

2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember three digit number, but unlike 4-1-1 for directory assistance or 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies, the focus of 2-1-1 is to provide people with comprehensive information and referral to various human services in their communities.

Rather than spend hours of frustration going it alone calling around to various agencies or surfing the web, help-seekers can make 2-1-1 their first call for assistance and speak to a trained specialist that can spend time evaluating their needs, educating them about resources, and then connect them with the appropriate services. These 2-1-1 agencies widen their reach by making their services available via chat, texting, and integrating their well-curated database of resources into their website. They also build partnerships with other providers by sharing their resource information and making it available to collaborators in a multitude of ways. Of course, iCarol is delighted to help a large percentages of 2-1-1s across Canada and the United States tap into these tools and innovation to help their communities.

The specialists at 2-1-1 are considered some of the unsung heroes of the global Coronavirus pandemic. While they aren’t always highly visible first responders in their communities, they are certainly an integral part of the COVID-19 response. From very early on in the pandemic, 2-1-1 centers have served as community helplines for COVID-19 health information, and provided critical resource information to individuals and families suffering from the economic fallout caused by the Coronavirus. And now as communities are implementing their vaccine roll outs, once again 2-1-1s are often serving as part of that process as well.

iCarol is proud to be working with so many 211 providers whose organizations provide a vital service to their communities by connecting millions of people to essential services each year. If you work at a 2-1-1 and celebrated this day at your helpline, whether it’s just a small occasion or large outreach event, we want to hear from you! Send your stories and photos to me at dgrayson@icarol.com so we can feature them on our blog and share your experiences with our readers and recognize your organization.

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Join us for Bell Let’s Talk Day

Bell Let's Talk

Wednesday January 28th is a big day for Canadian mental health initiatives: It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day!

This annual event draws attention to the topic of mental health, particularly the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many from seeking help. The idea is that if we all talk more openly about mental health and are open to conversations about it, it will lessen the shame attached to mental illness. Bell also champions access to care, workplace mental health, and research.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, people are encouraged to take to social media and discuss the topics of mental health and mental illness. Certain social media activities, such as watching the official Bell Let’s Talk video, using their special profile photo frame in Facebook, or using their special Snapchat filter, will help raise funds for organizations that address Bell Let’s Talk’s initiatives. Bell donates 5¢ to mental health initiatives and programs across Canada (including many services that are part of the iCarol family!). Bell customers can also participate by texting or making calls. Find out more about how to take part.

Bell Let’s Talk has had a profound impact across Canada. Since the campaign began in 2011 there have been over 1 billion interactions around Bell Let’s Talk, with over $100 million donated to mental health initiatives. And 86% of Canadians say they are more aware of mental health issues since Bell Let’s Talk launched.

To learn more about Bell Let’s Talk, check out their website and toolkit that contains everything you need to participate. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and Facebook, to join us in raising funds and awareness so we can remove the stigma from the conversation about mental health!

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January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

The United States recognizes January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. While this is designation originated in the US in 2010 by presidential proclamation, many other countries, including Canada, take part in education and awareness around human trafficking and slavery during January as well.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking occurs when someone, using force, fraud, or coercion, obtains some form of labor or commercial sex act from the victim, often for the direct profit of the perpetrators. Traffickers use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure their victims into trafficking situations. Human Trafficking is often described a modern-day slavery. Traffickers may recruit, transport, harbor and/or exercise control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labor.

Who are the victims?

Anyone, of any age, race, religion, sex, or background can become a victim of human trafficking, however certain groups of people are more commonly victimized and enslaved, or vulnerable to trafficking, than others. Women and children are more likely to be victimized than men. Human trafficking particularly affects women and children who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color), immigrants or migrants.

How big is the problem?

Human Trafficking and Slavery are more prevalent than most people probably think. According to the US State Department, by some estimates, as many as 24.9 million people — adults and children — are trapped in a form of human trafficking around the world, including in the United States. Instability caused by natural disasters, conflict, or a pandemic can increase opportunities for traffickers to exploit others. During the COVID-19 pandemic, traffickers are continuing to harm people, finding ways to innovate and even capitalize on the chaos.

How can you tell if someone might be a victim?

There are many signs to watch for. A few of the most common are:

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

Read more about common signs. You can even download an indicator card to carry with you to remind you of what to watch look for.

How you can help

Anyone can join in the fight against human trafficking. If you suspect someone is being victimized, you should not confront them while they are in the presence of the suspected perpetrator, nor should you confront a suspected perpetrator. This could be dangerous for you and the victim. Instead, experts advise you reach out to emergency services or law enforcement to report suspected trafficking.

There are many things you can do to help fight human trafficking beyond reporting suspected trafficking when you see it. You can get involved in your community’s efforts to end trafficking, donate to organizations that fight human trafficking, and much more. Click here for a comprehensive list of ideas for how you can help.

Resources:

Hope for Justice
US Department of State
Administration for Children & Families – Office on Trafficking in Persons
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)
The Human Trafficking Institute
Public Safety Canada
Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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Happy New Year from iCarol

As 2020 comes to a close and we look forward to 2021, I like to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year. While they may have looked and felt different this year, they are accomplishments none the less.

I have had the opportunity to communicate with many of you this year, but for those I have not yet met, I joined iCarol as the Vice President of Operations in March of this year. Many of you know or have spoken previously to Rachel Wentink, who has served in this role for 5 years. Rachel is still working with us but is working part-time as she moves to semi-retirement. As I transitioned into this role from another Harris Business Unit, it struck me right away the absolute commitment and dedication that is a culture within the industries we serve. I love the sense of community that I experienced while attending various conferences this year, which says a lot given they were all held remotely. I look forward to “meeting” many more of you in 2021 and learning of the plans you have or need help with to drive towards the vision for your organizations.

While 2020 brought many hardships, I have been trying to focus on the positives and the accomplishments that we have achieved this year at iCarol.

We have had the privilege of welcoming many new organizations into the iCarol family, as well as continue to serve our current valued clients. Most of what we do is driven from input from our iCarol client family. We seek information and insights from all of you to guide us in what we continue to offer in iCarol. As a result, we have made many code changes that turned out 646 different features and bug fixes throughout the year. This included some rather large developments like the Referral Q and Provider Portal, as well as developments such as our Contact Record API updates. We have also focused our development efforts this year to continue to evolve security to better secure your data. A couple of these additions are the audit log and lock box enhancements, in addition to infrastructure security changes that were made in October. We discussed these enhancements on our Customer Webinar held on December 9. If you were not able to join us, you can access the recording through the iCarol Admin Dashboard or Help Center and watch it at your convenience. We look forward to sharing more of the accomplishments that our Tech Team has turned out in 2020 at our State of iCarol webinar in January. Details on the webinar will be coming soon, and we hope to see all of you there!

Early this year we moved our Support ticketing system to a new platform in an effort to better support all of you. This move has allowed us to better track support needs and streamline our internal processes. This was a large undertaking, as is any new system, but we believe it was time well spent and encourage feedback from all of you. One way we would love to hear from you is on the survey that is provided at the end of each support ticket. We have seen an increasing number of responses, and I would encourage those of you who bypass it to please take a few seconds and provide your feedback so we can do better.

I have heard many people utter the same sentiment, that the end of 2020 cannot come soon enough. It has been a challenging year. The impact of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on everyone, none more than all of you — those that assist help seekers struggling with the changes it has brought to a once normal life, while getting used to a remote working culture that many of you were not accustomed to yourselves, and finding a way to manage the increased volume of contacts at the same time. What you have accomplished this year has been nothing short of remarkable, and from all of us at iCarol we want to sincerely thank all of you for being the light in the darkness for so many this year.

Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year from all of us at iCarol.

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“It’s a Wonderful Life” and Imagining a World Without Helplines

Content warning: This post discusses sensitive topics such as suicide and abuse.

In a year as strange and relentless as 2020, I needed a sense of normalcy more than ever this holiday season, and that came in the form of my annual viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In years’ past, the film’s theme of suicide prevention struck me most. But like a lot of things, the experience of 2020 placed a new filter over the movie for me, and I started noticing elements that, while always there, hadn’t been as noticeable to me before.

The crises of 2020 were relentless. And when the bad news just keeps coming and it feels there’s no end in sight, no clear solution or relief, it can be easy to fall into total despair. George Bailey experiences this very thing in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George passed on his own dreams so the dreams of others could be realized and those he loved could be happy, and for awhile he appears okay with that. Then a series of crises compound, and old trauma and resentments quickly rise to the surface. George, completely devoid of hope and solutions, is now staring into the icy churning waters of a river flowing beneath him. For all his good deeds and sacrifices, look at how bad things are. What was it all for? He contemplates how the world might be better off if he wasn’t here, or if he never existed at all.

George’s scenario got me thinking about the exhaustive work so many people have been doing all throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, only to have things stay the same, or get worse, day in and day out, with no relief in sight. When there’s no clear impact or positive change to motivate you, to reassure you that your sacrifices and work matters, how do you keep going? How do you resist despair and hopelessness?

I think the answer is similar to what we see in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George can’t see his positive impact until he’s shown a world without him in it. Perhaps we need to briefly imagine what the world would look like without those forces of good working hard to help others.

What would our world look like now if helplines, contact centers, and other community services didn’t exist?

Contact centers and Information and Referral services like 2-1-1 commonly act as their community’s primary source of information about COVID-19, providing information on everything from common symptoms to look for and where to go to get tested. In many cases 2-1-1 became the official state/provincial source of COVID-19 information. Without that centralized information delivery service, health departments, emergency rooms, and medical offices are overwhelmed with people seeking information. Phone lines jam and human resources are syphoned from direct care treating those who are ill. Fewer people know where to get tested. More people get sick, and more lives are lost as a result.

The economic fallout from the pandemic will be with us for some time. Some say the financial recovery may take longer than public health recovery. Thankfully, people looking for financial assistance for their very survival—help with utilities or food—had places to reach. Places where a compassionate and knowledgeable specialist could, in a single interaction, provide ideas and resources that may help with several needs. Without those contact centers, those in need are left feeling lost and overwhelmed. Already worn down by their situation, they must now spend time and effort navigating the network of community services on their own. They don’t know how the systems work. They are frustrated and even more overwhelmed. It takes longer to access assistance. They miss several meals. They only find out about a fraction of the services for which they were eligible.

Quarantines and stay-at-home orders kept people at home more, and for many the people they live with are a source of comfort. For others, it’s a source of conflict or even danger. Suddenly, vulnerable individuals suffering abuse at the hands of a parent or partner, or LGBTQIA youth living with unsupportive family members, were cut off from their daily escapes and support systems. Without services specializing in providing safety and emotional support, they become more isolated. Tensions in the household rise. Abused partners and Queer youth have no professional confidential counseling to access quietly and privately through chats or text messages. There’s no emergency shelter to escape to.

Viruses and physical health have taken center stage this year, but the mental health toll is undeniable. We’ve been going through a collective, worldwide trauma. Everything familiar was disrupted and the entire concept of “normal” disappeared overnight. Many people are experiencing emotions they aren’t sure what to do with, and they aren’t ready to talk to their friends or loved ones. Others lack those connections and are processing things all on their own. Imagine a world without an outlet to help one cope with those feelings. No warmlines or impartial empathetic listeners, no crisis or suicide prevention services. The emotional suffering deepens and spreads, and we lose even more people to a different type of pandemic—suicide—that was present long before COVID-19.

So yes, 2020 was the worst, filled with more crises happening all at once than many of us could have imagined. And in a seemingly never-ending string of challenges, it may feel at times like your contributions, all your exhaustive efforts, aren’t making a dent. If reassurance and evidence of your impact seems elusive, think back to George Bailey’s tour of seedy Pottersville, the bad place version of Bedford Falls. Close your eyes and take a stroll through that scary, imaginary world without organizations like yours, and see that things could actually be much worse. It’s because of the good work of those who care, like you, that it isn’t.

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7 helpline interactions you’ll have on Christmas (or any major holiday)

If you want to witness one of the most challenging yet also most rewarding aspects of helpline work, look to the major holidays. Centers that operate 24/7/365 experience the challenge of staying open all the time and being there for help seekers even on major religious and civic holidays. It can be tough to staff these days, and hard for staff and volunteers to spend a special holiday away from friends and family, but ultimately knowing that you helped someone in their time of need makes the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.

So what kinds of calls (or chats or texts!) do such services receive on these major holidays?

Hello from a familiar voice

    At any given hotline it’s fairly common to have a population of people both in and outside their communities for whom the helpline is a part of this person’s support network. These folks rely on the helpline as a support system for a number of reasons; limited social and familial relationships, daily coping with mental illness or disabilities, loneliness, or someone simply had a very successful interaction that keeps them coming back for support. Regardless of the reason, helplines should take this caller loyalty as a compliment and endorsement. And you’ll likely hear from these same people on the holidays as well, either to check-in and talk like they normally would, or often with an added “Thank you for being there.”

Surprise!

    More than a handful of times I can recall answering the phone on a major holiday and the person on the other end was baffled by the sound of another human voice. “Oh…hello? Are you a real person?” or “Oh wow, you guys are there today!” Often they were prepared to have to leave a message or were just testing the line. It was nice to hear someone pleasantly surprised that they could speak to another person on a day where so much was going on and so many other services are closed, and it usually made me feel like I was in the right place that day.

I need a meal/toy for my child/counselor/shelter/etc.

    These calls can be a challenge because for many situations, the help seeker isn’t going to be able to get help that day. As mentioned above, many services are closed and it can be tough to give a person referrals but know that their situation may remain in limbo until the holiday has passed. Thankfully in my experience there were at least a handful of non-profits or religious institutions who were open and providing things like hot meals on many holidays, and even those who had last-minute toy giveaways for families with children who hadn’t signed up for such programs in advance. And, even when the referred service isn’t open, you’re able to at least provide empathy and hope which can make a world of difference.

Crises don’t take a day off

    For many people, holidays are more stressful than they are delightful, and actually present a recipe for crisis. Tensions that were simmering below the surface can easily rise up when a person is under stress. And while for most people family gatherings are a happy occasion, for others these get-togethers can easily result in outbursts or even violence. Of course this can happen in a group setting or to someone who is alone. After all, a holiday is just another day, presenting all the same hardships as the day before. There is nothing special about a holiday that can create a foolproof barrier against a crisis or suicidal thoughts — making it all the more critical that someone be available to help talk things through or intervene in some way.

I want to help

    Holidays that put a focus on gratitude and generosity will bring out the best in people. For many, the spirit of giving is coursing through them so much that they’re looking for a last minute opportunity to volunteer somewhere so they can give back to others in need. Unfortunately for these generous people, most organizations have long since filled their need for volunteers on the actual holiday, plus there are application processes and/or training that make it infeasible to accept these spur of the moment offers of volunteerism. Luckily these folks are usually willing to accept referrals to the many organizations in their area that need volunteers year ’round, not just on the holidays, and would hopefully follow through with their plan to help after going through the proper processes.

Holidays are a painful reminder

    For many people the holiday itself can be a cause of negative feelings, and they need someone to vent to. Perhaps they have a particularly bad memory associated with the day or time of year, and pain surfaces as a result. This may be a memory from long ago or something that happened much more recently, but anniversaries tend to make us recall these past events and relive the emotions experienced, good or bad. Some people are grieving a lost loved one, and holidays remind them of the empty seat at the table. For others, seeing people enjoying get-togethers with family and friends shines a painful spotlight on their own loneliness or broken relationships. Being the person that was there for them when they needed it most can be very rewarding.

Thank you

    Perhaps the most heartwarming interaction you can have is with the person who calls just to say “Thanks.” Sometimes they’re people who have used your service in the past. Or, it may just be a person who finds out you’re there on a major holiday and recognizes that by sacrificing some of your time, you’re making a positive impact on others. A simple “Thank you” goes such a long way.

During the holidays we know many of you out there will be spending some time apart from your families both due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while working to serve your communities. On behalf of all of us here at iCarol, thank you for all you do and we wish you a happy holiday season and bright New Year!

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iCarol Webinar – Fault Lines: Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Behavioral Health Crisis Services

Crisis Call Centers are no strangers to stressful, high-impact work environments—but what happens when the world as we know it is turned upside down by a global pandemic? Join us as iCarol hosts Travis Atkinson of TBD Solutions to discuss the results of two national surveys administered to behavioral health crisis workers that shed light on the state of crisis services and what communities need to be prepared for to assure people experiencing a psychiatric emergency can access high-quality care.

When: Tuesday, December 8
Time: 2pm EST

After joining the webinar, attendees will:

  1. Understand the function of a healthy crisis continuum and the impact of system capacity issues on overall coordination
  2. Learn the most pressing issues facing crisis service providers of all types during the pandemic
  3. Identify strategies for creatively combating system challenges to achieve the desired goals of timely and accessible crisis services.

Travis AtkinsonOur Presenter:

Travis Atkinson, MA-LPC
TBD Solutions

For the past 10 years, Travis has worked in both clinical and managerial roles in behavioral health. Through these experiences, he espouses the value of a healthy and functioning behavioral health care system, the power of data to drive decision‐making, and the importance of asking the right questions. While maintaining a broad vision for excellence and leadership, Travis has sought out best practices for behavioral health care services through research and connecting with fellow providers at a local and national level. He is an excellent training instructor, coach, meeting facilitator, conference presenter, and host of The Crisis Podcast.

Register Now

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