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.
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.
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.
We have an exciting new capability to share with iCarol Messaging subscribers. You can now allow a partner center, or multiple centers, to take chats for you from within their own iCarol system.
This new ability is transparent to visitors; they will not be aware of which center is taking the chat session. Visitors will still click on your familiar Chat Now button on your website and will see your prechat survey. But during times you designate, both you and your partner center will see those visitors come in to each of your messaging queues. As usual, safeguards are in place so two people don’t accidentally take the same chat. Both centers will have access to submitted call report forms and associated real-time statistics.
The possibilities here are endless. It’s ideal for handling overflow in a disaster situation. Watch your messaging queue grow shorter and become more manageable as your partner agency takes some of your chats. You can use this feature to handle after-hours messaging visitors. Because iCarol centers are found in multiple time zones, after-hours for you might be prime time for another center, and your partner could take all of your after-hours chats. This lets you expand your hours of service without trying to staff shifts during hard-to-staff hours. Want to get really fancy? You could even designate multiple centers to handle chats that come in to a central iCarol system, effectively creating a consortium of chat centers where no single center feels overburdened or underutilized. Every partner center sees all chats and takes chats when they can — it’s load balancing at its finest. Each partner center could have their own hours of service, too, and you’d get real-time statistics.
If you’re interested but don’t have a partner center in mind, feel free to post a message on the iCarol User Community on the Dashboard to find your perfect match. We can see it now: Single Crisis Center on East Coast seeks same on West Coast for meaningful after-hours relationship…looking for good listening skills, compassion, and ability to read between the lines. 🙂
The volunteer screening and application process serves a dual purpose. It gives the helpline manager the opportunity to meet the volunteer and evaluate their ability to work on the helpline. For the volunteer it can be a discovery meeting where they learn more about the realities of helpline volunteerism. For both parties it’s a major step in deciding if the volunteer will move to the next stage.
Most helplines have a well-established list of questions to ask, but we’d like to offer these for your consideration…
1. Why do you think you’d be a good fit for our helpline? – The responses to this question let your volunteer share their qualities, but they’ll also reveal their preconceptions about what it’s like to work on a helpline. Portrayals in movies, television, or commonly held beliefs about crisis work tend to permeate volunteer expectations. Someone might answer, “I think I could give great advice.” This may open the door for you to talk about the reality of the work you do at the helpline. Perhaps you don’t give advice but rather listen to the caller, talk through their options, and let the caller ultimately decide what they’ll do. The volunteer will appreciate the chance to learn about what they can really expect when working on the helpline as opposed to what they’ve been imagining it’d be like.
2. Are you comfortable being observed and receiving feedback? – There’s a good chance your call center is a place where several people are working together at once, often times in close quarters. Your workers may routinely be right there observing their partner’s calls and giving peer feedback afterward. They can also expect to receive feedback from supervisors. New volunteers should be prepared for the work environment and know that feedback isn’t about someone else being critical of their work, but rather it’s intended to help them be successful and better serve the callers. For some, the prospect of regular observation and evaluation may be more than they were expecting.
3. Can you think on your feet? – Quick thinking is an essential quality for any helpline volunteer. The tone of a call can change in an instant and a skilled volunteer will pick up on hints at suicide and know how to proceed. You never know when a caller might say or ask something that takes you by surprise, and the ability to come back with a quick response will ensure the volunteer is always ready and in control of the situation. Not all volunteers will know how to hit the curveballs.
4. Are you a good detective? – You might not immediately think of investigative skills as being important to helpline work, but they’ll come in handy. You can’t just hear, you have to listen, and sometimes that means discovering more than what’s being revealed on the surface. In talking with a caller, sometimes it takes the right methods of reflection and questioning to get to the core of what’s going on for the caller and how the volunteer can help. Searching for the right referrals for a caller can also take some sleuthing and creativity especially when resources are limited or the caller isn’t eligible for services. Thinking outside the box and coming up with ideas and alternatives is a useful skill to have.
5. Do you need to see results to feel like you accomplished something? – New volunteers may be disappointed to find that after spending an hour talking a caller through a problem, that same person may call back in a month, still experiencing the same issue. And for callers who live with chronic and persistent mental illness, each day may come with a similar set of challenges, routines, and coping skills. Helpline workers aren’t always going to see huge changes and immediate positive turnarounds. In many cases, you never even know how it all turned out. The miracle success stories may be few and far between. This doesn’t mean, however, that the work you do isn’t helpful. Often in the helpline world, we need to re-frame our expectations and what we see as “success.” For some callers, just making it through the hour is successful. That hour spent on the line was an hour they didn’t feel as lonely, and it provided them with the boost they needed to get through the evening. If a volunteer needs to see more apparent success in order for them to feel like they had an impact, helpline work may leave them feeling burnt out and disappointed.
There’s a lot to consider when vetting a prospective volunteer. These questions may help both you and the volunteer further evaluate their desire, readiness, and natural abilities to determine whether they’ll end up joining your organization.
We’re gearing up for the American Association of Suicidology’s 47th Annual Conference in Los Angeles! We’re looking forward to seeing so many of our friends and colleagues there; it’s always a great chance to catch up with everyone in the helpline and suicide prevention industry.
This year iCarol is particularly excited to present a special lunch session on Friday April 11th. Our workshop is
With every passing year, the use of new channels to seek help continues to expand. Join this session to help your crisis center evaluate these channels, determine your next steps and plan your technology choices to adapt to the evolving Online Emotional Support (OES) landscape. You’ll hear from your peers and technology experts about the best way to get started serving people interactively using the electronically written, rather than the spoken word.
Chat, Texting, Mobile and Social: A look at today and the future of online emotional support with iCarol.
Adding new channels by which your clients can reach you can be intimidating and may leave you with a lot of questions. We hope to answer the questions you may have about these new technologies and give you confidence to embark on this new and exciting path with the tools iCarol has developed. We hope you’ll join us for this session at AAS! Not attending the conference but still want to learn more about our Online Emotional Support capabilities? Sign up for a webinar!
The National Association of Crisis Center Directors (NASCOD) recently announced an exciting collaboration with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. These two leading authorities in the helpline industry will collaborate on the delivery of monthly Webinars and Peer Support calls. The collaboration allows both agencies to highlight their strengths, share vital information across a larger network of crisis agencies and maximize training opportunities with ease and convenience for the busy helpline and suicide prevention professional.
This collaboration presents two major benefits to participants:
NASCOD Members will be invited to the Lifeline Evaluation Webinar Series which will focus on research supporting crisis and suicide intervention best practices
NASCOD will coordinate and present a series of peer support calls that will be shared with the Suicide Lifeline Network
If you’re not yet a member of NASCOD we highly recommend you consider becoming a member. NASCOD provides great resources to professionals at crisis lines, helplines, and suicide prevention lines. Regularly held Peer Support Calls allow crisis center directors to engage with one another and benefit from the experience of other directors on a number of pertinent topics. NASCOD also holds an annual conference that helps directors hone in on management and leadership skills, network with other helpline professionals, and learn more about specific topics, issues, and challenges in the helpline industry. Many NASCOD members use iCarol helpline management software and so this is one more area in which members can share knowledge and information with one another, for example how they are using iCarol features such as texting/SMS, chat, statistics, and resources to their advantage.
With the announcement of this partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline it’s an excellent time to become a NASCOD member and take advantage of this opportunity to participate in the exchange of ideas and experiences between these two important leaders in the crisis helpline industry.
There are a lot of conversations that parents dread having with their kids, but conversations about sex are notoriously difficult. And while conversations about healthy relationships should go hand in hand with “the talk,” that’s a step that many parents miss. In fact, three out of four parents haven’t talked to their kids about domestic violence, and 81% of parents believe that teen dating violence isn’t an issue, or they admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
But it is a very important issue. One in three teens will experience some form of abuse from someone they date, including physical, sexual or verbal abuse. About one in five women and almost one in seven men who experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner first experience some sort of partner violence as a teen or adolescent. As future generations grow up and start dating, it’s important that they have the proper education and understanding as they enter into relationships – and know how to identify and avoid ones that are unhealthy or dangerous.
February is Teen Dating Violence month, and February 4th is ‘It’s Time to Talk’ Day, a day when we encourage parents, advocates, mentors, and other adults to talk to their teens about dating violence. Helplines are trusted sources of information for kids and teens, and so we encourage you to check out these resources and share them as needed.
It’s Time to Talk Day Conversation Guide and Talk-a-thon Guide
Dating Violence Warning Signs
Dating Violence 101
Do you have more resources to add? Share them with everyone by leaving a comment below!