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iCarol Innovators – Your Voice Matters

Light-Bulb

At iCarol we believe that our customers are also some of our best innovators. From the very start, helpline volunteers created iCarol and we’ve continued that tradition of users driving product development as the years go by. Many of the features you use in iCarol every day grew from a “light bulb moment” had by one of your peers. This community development approach drives our future product development. After all, no one knows your business or what type of tool or enhancement could improve your work like you do.

iCarol Usergroup Summit at the AIRS Conference

Our conference appearances throughout the year provide opportunities for iCarol usergroup sessions where iCarol users can discuss our software, provide feedback, and hear about our development plans, often referred to as our “Product Roadmap.” Prior to the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) conference in May we hold an iCarol Usergroup Summit where we offer trainings by AIRS Certified iCarol staff, as well as a traditional usergroup meeting.

This past spring, we asked for the AIRS Usergroup Summit attendees’ help on voting and prioritizing identified enhancements that should be first in line for development. Attendees received a firsthand look at how hard it is for us to decide where to focus our efforts. They took their task seriously, and graciously provided valuable feedback. You’ll be seeing the results of their efforts soon as these new developments start to be released in your iCarol system. As always, watch the iCarol blog and the Dashboard in your iCarol system for details.

Following the Summit one attendee described iCarol as, “Not just a vendor but a partner” in their organization’s mission. This is absolutely our goal as we work with all of our clients as we believe deeply in helping you to affect positive change in your communities. We’re happy to share that 100% of Summit attendees described themselves as Satisfied or Very Satisfied overall with the material presented at AIRS iCarol Usergroup Summit, and 100% of the group found the individual session content relevant to their everyday work. We think it’s a great event that you should attend next year, but you don’t have to take our word for it – 91% of attendees said they are likely to recommend attendance to others. We’ll be announcing future AIRS iCarol Usergroup Summit plans in 2018 so stay tuned!

Advisory Boards and Focus Groups

In an effort to keep client discussions going not just when we see you at conferences but throughout the year, we’ve recently kicked off a new and exciting venture — creating two separate iCarol Advisory boards, one to represent Crisis Centers/Helplines, and one to represent Information and Referral organizations. Each iCarol Advisory Board will ensure representation of industry voices in our development process through virtual meetings year round. Goals include providing iCarol with guidance on their industry’s evolving needs, providing feedback on existing and future software development, and validating that iCarol’s strategy and development plans meet the needs of the industry being served.

In addition to the iCarol Customer Advisory Boards, we are also hosting more focus groups than ever before. Focus groups are made up of individuals to discuss a particular challenge or development approach we are considering. Focus groups give the iCarol Product Development team the opportunity to discuss challenges our clients experience and potential solutions.

Want to get involved in an iCarol Advisory Board or Focus Groups? Participants are identified and invited through their participation on the iCarol Ideas Portal, from the cases they submit, feedback from surveys or ways in which their iCarol systems are configured.

Annual Customer Survey

It’s important to provide organization leaders and management staff across our client pool with the opportunity to share feedback covering all areas of iCarol, from our customer service to the use of the product itself, and to that end we just wrapped our annual Customer Survey a few weeks ago. We’re busy compiling and analyzing those results now so we can internally discuss how this feedback will drive us in the months ahead. We truly value the time you took to complete this survey and we will share results and action plans coming from that survey in the months ahead.

iCarol Ideas Portal

And finally, we just celebrated about 7 months of having the iCarol Ideas Portal available. This has proven to be an effective way of both receiving and prioritizing client ideas, and communicating about these ideas and their progress towards implementation. You may have caught our recent blog sharing some notable stats on the portal’s usage and just how much this method of client involvement has impacted your iCarol system already. If you haven’t, you can check that out here.

We hope, with these various methods through which we receive feedback and ideas, that you feel like a part of our iCarol Community where your voices are heard and opinions are acknowledged. Your role in our product development is an integral part of what we do and we look forward to continuing that tradition in both familiar and new and exciting ways.

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Go Purple for Spirit Day

GLAAD Spirit Day Go Purple 2017

Wednesday, October 19th is Spirit Day, bringing awareness to the topic of bullying targeted towards LGBTQ youth.

According to GLAAD, “Spirit Day is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Pledging to “go purple” on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends — to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.”

There are several ways you can participate in Spirit Day:

  1. Take the pledge to show you support LGBTQ youth and stand against bullying
  2. Learn facts about bullying by downloading GLAAD’s available resources kits designed for the public, students, and teachers
  3. Spread the word, especially on social media using #SpiritDay
  4. Go Purple, by wearing purple clothing or accessories, and also using social media profile photo frames promoting Spirit Day
  5. If you have the passion and means to do so, donate to GLAAD to take a stand against discrimination and prejudice.

The pledge, resource kits, shareable facts, social media supplies, and more are all available on GLAAD’s website.

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#MeToo trends on social media, raises awareness of magnitude of harassment and assault

silence

The following blog post discusses the topic of sexual violence and harassment.

Dozens of women have recently come forward with sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a movie mogul and producer. While it’s unclear if any formal criminal charges will be filed as a result, Weinstein has so far lost his job at The Weinstein Company and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The stories being shared in the wake of these allegations reignite an international conversation about sexual violence, particularly the prevalence of violence against women. Experiences of sexual violence or harassment are extremely difficult to talk about. Survivors often feel pressure to remain silent about what happened. Trauma, fear of not being believed, being shamed/blamed, fear of retaliation or further violence, and other potential consequences keep many from telling someone or reporting crimes. Many people don’t realize or perhaps don’t believe that this sort of harassment and abuse is widespread and unfortunately a fairly universal experience for women in particular.

Tonight, the hashtag #MeToo went viral, bringing attention and opening eyes to just how prevalent these experiences are. It began with a tweet by actor Alyssa Milano.

While it originated on Twitter, the posts and hashtag quickly spread to other social media platforms like Facebook.

So far, several thousand people are posting, sometimes simply sharing the hashtag as a way to acknowledge their experience without sharing any details. Others are sharing their stories. It’s too soon to know how much of an impact these stories might have on the broader conversation about sexual violence, including how we can eliminate it. But it’s clear that people are feeling safer discussing it online when surrounded by others telling their stories. Perhaps this solidarity, in such large numbers, can bring about positive change.

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iCarol at the National Crisis Centers Conference

Niagara falls Buffalo New York

From Oct 18 – Oct 20, I’ll be attending the National Crisis Centers Conference in Buffalo, NY along with iCarol’s Director of Business Development, Polly McDaniel, and our newest Solutions Expert, Tonya Broomer, who you may recognize from her previous role as an iCarol Support Team member!

Our history with this group is our longest association, going way back to iCarol’s earliest days, and many of the helplines and crisis centers who host this conference were some of iCarol’s earliest users. It’s a long standing relationship that we value and we’re proud to not only attend but are also long-term sponsors of this important gathering organized by pillars of the helpline industry, CONTACT USA (CUSA) and the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD). Both organizations are phenomenal in supporting crisis work and we recommend considering membership for your service. Find out more about CUSA membership here and NASCOD membership here.

This year’s conference theme is “Unity in Helping.” Time and again we see how coming together and working towards a common goal makes organizations and communities stronger. We recently joined NASCOD and CUSA member organizations and others to rally around a common theme of “being there for others” during National Suicide Prevention Week. This movement empowered millions of people to take action to prevent suicide. Having so many voices on this common theme helped broadcast that message further. We’re looking forward to this year’s conference sessions highlighting all the ways in which we’re stronger together, whether it’s teamwork within your helpline or collaborating with partners in other organizations.

Let’s meet up!

While we look forward to these conference workshops that keep us in-the-know about the issues faced in the industry, which in turn helps us better serve our clients, we also enjoy the chance to see current and potential iCarol users face-to-face so we can hear about their vital work and explore ways we might be able to help. This year we’ll offer some dedicated space before the conference begins, to be available to those who may wish to talk with us.

When: October 18, 9am-4pm
Where: Embassy Suites (same hotel as the conference), Encore Ballroom on the second floor

We’ll be prepared to address whatever topics you wish to discuss, such as:

  • Training on how to use certain iCarol features
  • Quick system tours to those unfamiliar with iCarol
  • Feedback or comments
  • Any other iCarol questions

There’s no need to schedule an appointment — just stop by at any time you’re free from other conference activities (click here to check-out the preliminary schedule). If you have any questions you’d like to ask prior to stopping by, feel free to !

If you can’t make it on the 18th but wish to meet with us, don’t worry. We’ll be attending sessions and other conference activities and can catch up with you at whatever time is most convenient. See you in Buffalo!

National Crisis Centers Conference 2017

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iCarol Webinar: Suicide Prevention through Emergency Department/Crisis Center Partnerships

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On Wednesday, October 4th at 1pm EST, iCarol will host a webinar on the topic of Crisis Center/Emergency Department (ED) partnerships, specifically those where crisis centers make follow-up calls to discharged patients who came to the ED presenting with suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Research shows that for about 1 in 5 deaths by suicide, the person had actually visited their local emergency department in the weeks before their death. While hospital EDs can keep a person safe in the short-term and provide referrals to long-term care, they aren’t often the best resource to handle the complex and ongoing mental health and emotional needs of someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide. Most people who visit an ED for concerns related to suicide are discharged after a very short period of time, and the discharge plan often doesn’t involve ongoing direct contact to check and see how the person is doing following their visit, potentially leaving the patient feeling lost and unsupported.

This is where more and more helplines are stepping in. Crisis Centers across North America have engaged in partnerships with their local emergency department to help provide care for ED visitors or discharged patients in the form of follow-up calls. Because crisis center professionals have the best knowledge, training, and resources to provide ongoing care such as this, EDs will make connections between the ED visitor to the crisis center. From there, crisis centers talk to the patient and make a series of follow-up calls or texts to the visitor to keep them feeling supported and engaged with a safety plan. Crisis centers are also best-equipped to see that a person receives referrals to more long-term mental health care or other needed referrals that can help resolve issues compounding a person’s distress and desire to end their life.

During this hour-long webinar, we’ll invite presenters to discuss first-hand experience of these partnerships:

    Charissa Tvrdy is a Lead Crisis Clinician and Hospital Follow-Up Coordinator at Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners. Ms. Tvrdy is responsible for oversight and project management of RMCP’s Hospital Follow-Up program. She works as a liaison between RMCP and participating Colorado emergency departments. Ms. Tvrdy assists call center staff in the training, implementation, quality assurance and daily operations of the program. Ms. Tvrdy received her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from The University of Kansas. She has experience working in a call center serving people experiencing behavioral health crisis. Ms. Tvrdy also has clinical experience within a Community Mental Health Center.

    Dr. Michael Allen built the model Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at Bellevue Hospital. He was chair of the APA’s Task Force on Psych Emergency Services, president of the Am Assoc for Emerg Psychiatry, member the NIH Emergency Medicine Roundtable, a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline steering committee member, a STEP-BD, ED SAFE and PRISM investigator and an author of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s ED Decision Support Guide. He has served as a subject matter expert for the US DOJ Civil Rights Div, CMS, NIMH, the Joint Commission and SAMHSA. He was instrumental in forming the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commission and the Colorado National Collaborative. He is currently Professor of Psychiatry and Emergency Medicine at the Johnson Depression Center, University of Colorado Anschutz Campus and Medical Director of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners.

    Caitlin Peterson is the Coordinator of Best Practices in Care Transitions for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, working closely with crisis centers, professional organizations, community partners, and mental health providers to support and advocate for follow-up and partnership with crisis centers. Caitlin has worked in the mental health, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention field for over 10 years, 7 of those in various positions, and later manager, of a blended suicide prevention and information and referral hotline. She has a Master of Science degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

We hope you can attend — space is limited so please register ASAP if you’re interested in joining the live presentation. For those who can’t join us, we’ll have the recording available on our website at a later date. To learn more about this webinar and to register, click the button below.

Watch Now

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DMAX Clubs aim to end mental health stigma on college campuses

DMAX-Logo

Did you know that 87% of college students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and 39% feel so depressed it is difficult to function? (Source: American College Health Association, National College Health Assessment) DMAX Foundation seeks to improve those statistics by creating social clubs with a mental health focus on college campuses throughout the nation to enable students to talk to each other about how they are doing, and to help each other.

DMAX Foundation was started by Laurie and Lee Maxwell, after the tragic loss of their son, Dan, to suicide at the age of 18. Dan had been plagued with mental and emotional pain for eighteen months, without relief, before he took his life. He tried to get better in every way possible. He and his family saw physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists, tried medications and dietary changes, and conducted tireless research. One thing the Maxwells were not able to do is speak out. It was too difficult to confide in friends and relatives about what was happening inside their family.

Thus DMAX, named in Dan Maxwell’s honor (DMAX was the nickname his teammates gave him), was founded to eliminate stigma and encourage safe and caring conversations about mental and emotional issues in our youth. To accomplish these goals, DMAX is establishing Clubs on college campuses which provide environments for all students to get together and talk about how they are doing, how their friends are doing and how they can help each other. DMAX Club officers get the opportunity to build valuable leadership skills, are trained to recognize mental health emergencies, learn how to listen (versus give therapy), and extend the campus’ mental health resources by making referrals to the Counseling Center. While other college mental health organizations emphasize the importance of having conversations about mental wellness, DMAX is putting it into practice, providing the space and the tools for Conversations That Matter to take place.

DMAX Foundation is currently focused on establishing clubs in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas, with a plan to expand all over the country in the future. DMAX Clubs have been recently established at Penn State University and Drexel University, joining Elon University, which began in spring 2016.

You can help DMAX establish clubs throughout the nation by:

  • Joining DMAX’s mailing list
  • Making a tax-deductible donation
  • Volunteering
  • Attending DMAX events in the Philadelphia area
  • Sponsoring one of its events
  • Connecting DMAX Foundation with schools and students interested in starting DMAX Clubs

For more information about DMAX Foundation and opportunities to get involved, visit www.dmaxfoundation.org

Guest Blogger Kris Kelley serves as the Outreach and Administrative Coordinator for the DMAX Foundation.

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Uniting our voices for National Suicide Prevention Week

NSPW Icon

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, marking the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week. During this week, millions of people will be speaking out about the impact suicide has on individuals, families, and communities, raising awareness and promoting messages on how best to prevent suicide. So many caring organizations worldwide will be adding their voices to this important message. In order to make the biggest and deepest impact, it’s helpful to unite around a common theme and messaging to amplify our voices.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is leading the way with a host of resources and information on their website to help organizations rally around a centralized theme of being there for others, a theme several well-known suicide prevention organizations have been promoting this year.

Be There Campaign

It’s a very simple yet powerful message, and it helps reinforce what we already know: Suicide prevention is everyone’s business, and we can all do something to help prevent suicide. Those of us who have worked at suicide prevention helplines know how effective the simple act of listening is. Just by being a sounding board, a safe place for someone to air their darkest thoughts without facing judgment, you can save a life. When a person knows that someone is willing to listen and offer their help or support and not be scared away by talk of suicide, they feel less isolated and alone with their thoughts, and can envision a better path forward.

In addition to rallying around messages of being there, the Action Alliance also encourages everyone to use #NSPW in their social media posts. This will boost all of our messages and ensures the topic trends online and receives the attention it deserves.

Visit the Action Alliance website for all the materials you need to participate. They have sample social media posts you can use, frames for your Facebook profile pic, and more. Don’t forget to join their Thunderclap, too. By signing up for the Thunderclap you can have your social media accounts post automatically at the exact same time as thousands of others across social media platforms. Click the image below to join.

Together we can bring lots of attention to National Suicide Prevention Week, and show people in need that they are loved, supported, and have a place to turn when needed.

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Concerned professionals share opinions on “13 Reasons Why”

13 reasons

Since its debut on Netflix earlier this year, the drama “13 Reasons Why,” an adaptation of a young adult novel, has spurred much discussion among suicide prevention experts and mental health advocates.

The series follows the story of Hannah, a teenager who has recently died by suicide. As her parents, teachers and friends process the loss, Hannah’s close friend and crush, Clay, finds himself obsessed with Hannah’s death, what caused her to kill herself, and how it may have been prevented. He is plagued by the “what ifs” of their time together. A mysterious delivery sends Clay further down a path of grief, regret, and ultimately the start of healing and learning lessons from loss.

Some have praised the series for drawing awareness to the topic of suicide. “13 Reasons Why” is one of Netflix’s most watched programs of 2017 and has exposed people to suicide and the intense grief of survivors, and also issues like sexual assault, drug addiction, and bullying.

Unfortunately, the show is riddled with problematic content. Hannah’s suicide is romanticized, especially in the context of the star-crossed lovers relationship between Hannah and Clay. Suicide is portrayed as an acceptable method of revenge, and the revenge element often overshadows the complex and mounting reasons that Hannah took her own life. Opportunities to show how teens might reach out, and successfully receive help, are missed, and in fact it shows only how attempt’s to get help could go horribly wrong. Teenagers could construe this message as discouraging help-seeking from adults. Finally, and most upsetting, is the fact that Hannah’s suicide is graphically depicted, going against guidelines that suicide experts outline for the media. For a program aimed and marketed towards teens, who are particularly vulnerable to influence and suicide contagion, these are some dangerous missteps that overshadow any awareness message.

Suicide prevention experts and advocates have been speaking out about “13 Reasons Why” since it was released, and that includes Beau Pinkham, Director of Crisis Intervention Services at The Crisis Center of Johnson County, Iowa. In a recent Op-Ed, Beau lays out the dangers of the series’ depiction of suicide and the effects it is having. You can read Beau’s Op-Ed in the Des Moines Register here.

Have you watched “13 Reasons Why?” What were your thoughts? Please leave us a comment below.

The opinions expressed in this blog entry belong to the blog author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of iCarol Software management or its other employees

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Hurricane Harvey brings record flooding to Texas

4th Reconnaissance Marines support rescue efforts in wake of Hurricane Harvey

Like many others, we’ve been watching the effects of Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas, stunned by the images of record setting flooding and the impact on residents. In particular we’ve been thinking of all of our friends and clients in this area. As is typical of helpline work, they have an important role to play in disaster planning, relief and recovery, all while their own homes and families are at risk. We’re told that 2-1-1 Texas has remained operational throughout — a truly amazing feat in the wake of this historic hurricane. As we hear from them and gain permission to share their experience and stories of those they helped, we hope to bring that information to you.

Harvey serves as a reminder to all non-profit services and particularly helplines, contact centers, and 2-1-1s that you have a role to play in your community’s disaster plan as government services look for partner organizations that can disseminate life-saving information, offload call volume to government switchboards, and provide information across a variety of communication methods to make sure everyone is reached. Meanwhile, these not-for-profits naturally have to concern themselves with the safety of their own staff and their own infrastructure in order to remain operational. With Hurricane Irma now making its way towards North and Central America, and months left in hurricane season, it’s time to consider your disaster plan. And of course disaster goes far beyond tropical storms and flooding. Wild fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, and other forms of disaster threaten communities across the globe.

We’ve recently been made aware of a website that provides a number of free resources helpful to any organization as they plan and prepare for disasters. You can access these resources here.

If you are interested in aiding in Harvey relief efforts, the United Way has announced establishment of a Harvey Recovery Fund. In the midst of these events it’s usually recommended to donate money rather than items, as storage space tends to be in short supply but cash allows organizations to purchase items on the ground for immediate distribution. They’ve offered information on the various ways you can make meaningful contributions on their website.

We extend our warm thoughts to everyone impacted by Hurricane Harvey. If you have information about relief efforts or if your organization has been directly impacted by Harvey and you would like to share your stories, please .

Photo appears courtesy of the United States Department of Defense. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Niles Lee.

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Back to School Mental Health Resources

Training

Returning to the classroom after an extended break is a stressful event. Knowledge of one’s mental health or the health of one’s children, and learning about how to address mental health concerns, can be valuable assests for a smoother transition for parents and students of all ages. Some degree of sadness or anxiety is perfectly normal, but what happens if those feelings begin more deeply impacting a student’s life? How do you combat the more serious mental health concerns stemming from or exacerbated by the transition?

Below are some resources to keep on hand for yourselves or clients that will help get the new school year off to a healthy start:

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