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.
CW: This blog post discusses stalking, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM), and though millions of men and women are stalked every year
in the United States, the crime of stalking is often misunderstood, minimized and/or ignored.
What is “stalking?”
Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. Many stalking victims experience being followed, approached and/or threatened — including through technology. Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right as well as a predictor of serious violence.
Facts about stalking*
- In 85% of cases where an intimate partner attempted to murder their partner, there was stalking in the year prior to the attack.
- Of the millions of men and women stalked every year in the United States, over half report being stalked before the age of 25 and over 15% report it first happened before the age of 18.
- Stalking often predicts and/or co-occurs with sexual and intimate partner violence. Stalkers may threaten sexual assault, convince someone else to commit assault and/or actually assault their victims.
- Nearly 1 in 3 women who were stalked by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted by that partner.
- Stalking tactics might include: approaching a person or showing up in places when the person didn’t want them to be there; making unwanted telephone calls; leaving unwanted messages (text or voice); watching or following someone from a distance, or spying on someone with a listening device, camera, or GPS.
What is the impact on stalking victims?*
- 46% of stalking victims fear not knowing what will happen next.
- 29% of stalking victims fear the stalking will never stop.
- 1 in 8 employed stalking victims lose time from work as a result
of their victimization and more than half lose 5 days of work or more.
- 1 in 7 stalking victims move as a result of their victimization.
- Stalking victims suffer much higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and social dysfunction than people in the general population.
How you can help
Helpline staff and volunteers can do a number of things to help people who reach you and talk about being stalked:
- Provide validation and empathy.
- Don’t minimize behaviors that are causing the person concern (e.g. “I wouldn’t worry.” “That doesn’t sound harmful.” “They’re only text messages.”)
- Encourage the person to keep keep detailed documentation on stalking incidents and behavior. More information and a template can be found here.
- Use Stalking Harassment and Risk Profile (SHARP) Risk Assessments at your organization. More information and a template can be found here.
- Empower and help the person develop a safety plan that is flexible, comprehensive, and contextual. More information can be found in this guide for advocates.
- If your organization does not provide direct services to assist with the issue, provide helpful resources such as a local domestic/intimate partner violence helpline, sexual assault helpline, legal resources, law enforcement, etc.
We all have a role to play in identifying stalking and supporting victims and survivors. We encourage you to learn more from the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center at www.stalkingawareness.org.
*Source: Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)
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.
The end of the year is fast approaching, and it’s been unlike any year before. We know how busy you are every day of the year, especially this year, but it’s time to take a moment and think about setting yourself up for success for the year ahead with some iCarol housekeeping. Even if you already have processes in place for these tasks, getting them done might fall to the bottom of your to-do list sometimes. Now is a good time to review these housekeeping tasks to help you get the most out of your iCarol system, while you’re getting ready for a new year.
Review Draft Contact Forms
It’s a good idea to designate a user with appropriate permissions to review all Contact Forms still in DRAFT status and ensure they’re either submitted or deleted by the end of the year. This is important because any Contact Forms in draft mode aren’t included in Statistics or Data Exports reports, so you could be missing important reporting data if forms documenting completed calls are left in draft mode. And erroneous drafts can clutter up your draft list, making it harder for your staff to see the drafts that actually need to be reviewed and completed. To learn more about draft Contact Records, open our Help Center and read this related help article.
Set Obsolete Contact Record Custom Fields To “Inactive” Status
The information you need to collect on your Contact Forms may periodically change. For example, perhaps a project your helpline participates in ends, and you no longer need to collect that piece of data. Or, as we’ve seen a lot this year, you need to collect new data in response to a new contract, or community response to an event or disaster. It helps to keep your forms tidy, and reduces time spent by your volunteers, if any unnecessary fields are hidden from the form entirely. This cleanup can be done at any time, but the end of the year is a perfect time to review the relevancy of your form’s fields. To learn more, open our Help Center and read this related help article.
Disable Inactive Custom Fields in Contact Forms from Appearing in Statistics Call Content Filters
If you’ve made changes to your Contact Forms, and set any custom fields to ‘inactive’ because they were no longer being used, now is a good time to review those inactive custom fields, and determine if the setting to ‘Use as a filter in Statistics’ should be disabled, too. If you no longer need to run reports on this information, it may help to have that filter removed from the list entirely. This way, your reporting staff will only see applicable filters when applying them to reports, saving them time as they browse through the list of filters. To learn more, open our Help Center and read this related help article.
Disable Vols-Staff from Accessing iCarol
It’s likely you had users leave your organization throughout the past year for any number of reasons. Even if you have a process in place already for what to do when users leave your organization, now is a good time to review your Vols-Staff profiles to ensure you’ve disabled users from accessing iCarol, when appropriate. This not only keeps them from accessing data they are no longer authorized to have, but also ensures they won’t be called or emailed by your active volunteers for help covering a shift. To learn more, open the iCarol Help Center and read this related help article.
It’s best practice to periodically create a backup file of your Resources, in case you need to access them offline for any reason. These files can then be especially helpful if your organization experiences problems with power loss or periodic disconnect of you internet connection, but you are still able to handle interactions (i.e. take phone calls, or handle walk-in requests) and provide referrals. You can create this backup file using our standard Resources Data Export tool, or even better, use the Specialized Exports of Resources to Word/Excel feature if your organization is subscribed to it, which provides even more flexibility in how these exports are presented and organized. Use the links above to read the related help articles to learn more about each tool to create a backup of your Resources.
Backup Contact Records
It’s also a good idea to create an offline version of your Contact Records for your users to access in case your organization ever experiences problems with power loss or loss of internet connection. Depending on the complexity of your forms, you may wish to simply save a printable version of your Contact Forms for your users to print out and use to document interactions during the power loss, or for more complex Contact Forms you may wish to transpose your Contact Forms into an editable document so your users can fill out the form on the computer in instances of internet outage. Some of our users even create paper copies for use in the event of a full power outage. Then, once internet connection is re-established, you should have a process in place to enter the data into iCarol so the interactions are included in statistical reporting.
It’s likely your organization already has processes in place to complete most of these tasks throughout the year. But if you don’t, now might be a good time to consider if you want to develop any processes for the new year to help you stay on track with completing these tasks on a regular basis so you’re optimizing your iCarol system.
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:
- Understand the function of a healthy crisis continuum and the impact of system capacity issues on overall coordination
- Learn the most pressing issues facing crisis service providers of all types during the pandemic
- Identify strategies for creatively combating system challenges to achieve the desired goals of timely and accessible crisis services.
Travis Atkinson, MA-LPC
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.
In recent years, Giving Tuesday has emerged as a counterbalance to the consumer-based Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday shopping traditions. It serves as a reminder that the holiday season is about charitable acts of kindness and helping our neighbors in need. Giving Tuesday (this year it’s held on December 1st) is an excellent opportunity for non-profits and charities to tell their communities about the work they do and encourage charitable giving to their organization. Smaller organizations or those that may be completely volunteer based shouldn’t feel incapable of participating — you don’t need a dedicated marketing team to take part in Giving Tuesday.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sidelined a lot of projects but Giving Tuesday shouldn’t be one of them. Yes, there are extra precautions to take and you may have to adjust your plans to keep everyone safe and comply with any restrictions in place. By now you’ve had to creatively adapt to a lot of things in 2020 — doing so for this event should be no problem! In fact, you should lean into fundraising efforts now more than ever — experts share that donors are focused on giving to local organizations, especially those who have provided direct response to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, it is important that you are extra sensitive and mindful that donors themselves are likely having a tough time, so carefully think through your messaging.
Below are some simple ideas to try that don’t take a large budget or tons of advanced planning.
- Simple Social Media
At a minimum, your social media accounts should publish posts about Giving Tuesday (remember to use the hashtag #GivingTuesday to maximize your reach!). Post throughout the day or schedule your posts ahead of time with social media management software like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social. Posts should include a call to action, i.e. do you want them to donate? Volunteer? Learn more about your work? Become an advocate? Depending on the call to action, include links to applicable web pages such as your volunteer opportunity or donation pages. Posts can focus on the work you do, success stories (shared either with client permission or written to remove identifying info), milestones and achievements, goals, and other information that you’d like your community to know about you. Examples of general Giving Tuesday social media posts can be found here. We’re always happy to help you boost your Giving Tuesday social media messages, so be sure to follow us on Twitter so we can follow you back to see your posts in our feed, then we can retweet your message to our followers.
- Share Video or Photos
Images and video are more compelling than text-only posts, and most social media sites say that posts that include them get more views, so use them if you can. Lean into content that focuses on how your organization has worked through COVID-19 to continue providing services, and why the services you provide are needed now more than ever. Your video doesn’t have to be Academy Award worthy — spontaneous and unrehearsed videos are authentic and give people a sense of who you are. If you’re working in an office, try a quick interview with a colleague about what they do and why they love working for your agency. Those working remotely can submit videos filmed themselves at home. Videos should be short and sweet, as most research shows short videos are the most watched. After taking the video you can usually do some light editing or clipping right on your phone before posting it to social media. If you’re feeling brave you can even do a live video right from platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, directly from a mobile phone.
- Engage Your Neighbors
Hopefully your organization is lucky enough to have some supporters in the business community that work with you throughout the year by holding fundraisers or making donations. Giving Tuesday is another perfect opportunity to engage with your biggest fans. Perhaps they’d be willing to post a short video to their social media feeds. Or maybe they’d do something as simple as keep a donation box or stack of your agency’s brochures at their register or other space in their business. Most businesses, especially those that already support your work, will welcome the opportunity to continue their advocacy during the holiday season. Many businesses are also motivated to align themselves with the work of non-profits especially now, to show that they are giving back to the community.
- Work Your Website
Your website is one of your greatest assets, especially now that so much of what we do is online rather than in-person, so make sure your Giving Tuesday participation is prominently featured there. This can be accomplished through something as simple as a blog post or homepage image, or more advanced like adding a new temporary banner or widget to your homepage that directs website visitors to your donation page, volunteer application, etc.
- Don’t Let Callers Off the Hook
If when people call you they first hear a general message or listen to a menu routing them to their desired destination, consider temporarily altering your greeting in honor of Giving Tuesday. This can be as simple as a 10-15 second “hello” wishing them a happy holiday season and inviting them to support your work, along with an invitation to visit your website for more information. This won’t add much at all to their wait time but will get your message in front of everyone who calls you.
- Shop and Donate
Did you know you can integrate Giving Tuesday into your donors’ other post-Thanksgiving activities like Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Some online retailers now offer donation integration as part of their shopping experience. The most well-known of these is the Amazon Smile program. Non-profits and charities can register their organization and shoppers can designate that agency as their charity of voice when shopping on the platform. Amazon donates a portion of eligible sales proceeds from those transactions back to the non-profit organization. It is remarkably easy for your donors to set this up when shopping — you simply need to get registered and promote it to those who support your work. Your donors can then do all their normal holiday shopping and support your services at the same time — WIN/WIN!
How is your agency planning to make the most of Giving Tuesday? Leave a comment below with your plans, or any ideas we may have missed! And be sure to follow iCarol on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and we will try to share your Giving Tuesday post as our way of saying thanks for the work you do!
Do you have sales experiences, experience working in or with a not-for-profit, or Admin Experience with iCarol Software? If you said yes to two or more of these, you could be the person we need!
iCarol is currently seeking candidates to fill the position of Solutions Expert, which is a sales representative role. Below is our full job listing. Interested parties can apply using the link at the bottom of this listing!
Solutions Expert/Sales Representative
The Solutions Expert is a sales representative that is part of the Business Development Team and reports to the Director of Business Development. As a Solutions Expert, you will join the Sales Team with a primary focus on new prospects to increase new sales and help with the overall growth of the company, and additional sales to current clients to ensure stability for the future of the company.
As a Solutions Expert you will work remotely within Canada or the United States. Depending on location, an office may be available at one of our many offices, if the successful candidate prefers to work within an office setting.
What we are looking for:
- Experience as a sales representative
- Some technical aptitude
- High character, be trustworthy, authentic, and do what you say you will do
- A desire to learn with the ability to be trained, take responsibility for your actions, and are able to be coached to improve
- Ability to work well autonomously, and be authentic in their abilities and demeanor
- Self-starter and highly motivated for success
What would make you stand out:
- Experience in information technology or software sales
- Experience working in a not-for-profit setting or demonstrated understanding of not-for-profit structure and needs
- Experience working with the iCarol solution, preferably as an iCarol Administrator
What we can offer:
- 3 weeks’ vacation and 5 personal days
- Comprehensive Medical, Dental and Vision coverage from your first day of employment
- Employee stock ownership and 401K matching programs
- Lifestyle rewards
- Flexible work options
CharityLogic, a division of Harris Computer, is the makers of iCarol software. iCarol is the first and only commercially available, subscription based, helpline software management system that automates all the processes associated with managing contacts and providing iCarol Messaging (live chat and texting/SMS). While iCarol was originally built specifically for non-profit helplines, our solution serves not-for-profit agencies and government organizations of many different scopes and types who serve people in need not just over the phone, but in-person, on the web, and through live chat or texting conversations.
One of the things I like most about Halloween is that it offers such a wide range of ways to participate and have fun. Horror movies not your thing? You can stick to fun activities like carving a jack-o-lantern and handing out candy to trick or treaters (in normal, non-pandemic years at least). And then there are the endless costume possibilities. You can be anything from a superhero to your favorite movie character to some very obscure cultural reference or the more traditional choice of ghost or vampire.
So with that range of costume possibilities and ways to have fun in mind, it’s always deeply upsetting to see Halloween become an event where mental illness is misrepresented and stigmatized. Some haunted house attractions are centered around “asylum” themes, or have a “haunted psych ward” component. Actors wearing straight jackets or wielding weapons chase visitors and shout lines about hearing voices. The message is very clear: Mental illness, and people who experience mental illness, are scary, violent, and to be feared.
In recent years, several costumes have been pulled from the shelves following pressure from mental health advocates. Unfortunately every year there are still a few new inappropriate and offensive costumes that pop up and make their way to stores and online retailers, and regrettably they are eventually seen out in public at bars and parties. And each time one is sold and then worn, it perpetuates the stigma and misconceptions around mental illness.
These interjections of mental illness into Halloween are neither fun nor harmless, but keep in place harmful stereotypes. These attractions and costumes continue pushing the idea that a person living with mental illness is violent and should be avoided. Discrimination is still a problem for people living with mental illness, and every day those who experience symptoms choose not to seek help for fear of mistreatment by the public, or that their relationships with family and friends will suffer. These depictions also hurt those who have experienced mental illness, especially those who have been hospitalized. Their deepest fears about what society thinks of them are realized when they see illness become a subject of fear-based entertainment.
It would never be acceptable to have haunted houses set in a hospice or cancer wing of a hospital, nor would we find cancer patient costumes to be appropriate. It’s important that we all speak up when we see mental illness being stigmatized, and stand up for those who have experience with illness and are negatively impacted by the perpetuation of stigma.
iCarol recently welcomed Parents Anonymous® to our family of customers. Founded in 1969, Parents Anonymous® delivers meaningful parent leadership, effective mutual support, Successful Shared Leadership®, and long-term personal growth and change for parents, children and youth, through their numerous programs.
Parents Anonymous® adopted iCarol software for use in their National Parent Helpline, which provides parents with emotional support from trained Advocates, to help them become empowered and stronger parents. Parents Anonymous® also operates the California Parent & Youth Helpline® which was launched in partnership with California Governor Gavin Newsom as part of his initiative to address the impacts of COVID-19.
As parents navigate new and difficult challenges, Parents Anonymous® has expanded the helpline’s hours of operation and the types of helpline services available to meet parents’ needs while coping with the impacts of COVID-19. The iCarol software has helped Parents Anonymous® carefully collect critical data that enables them to deliver services and conduct necessary reporting. They are using iCarol’s integrated SMS/Texting capabilities to meet parents on the convenient communication channels they need most while kids’ normal routines are disrupted and parents are juggling varied and competing responsibilities. Parents Anonymous® has made it even easier for parents to reach them by text-enabling their existing, well-known national helpline number, allowing parents to text the same familiar number that is used for voice calls. And connecting parents with the resources and referrals they need is now a streamlined process, regardless of whether a parent reaches them by phone or SMS/Texting, thanks to iCarol’s integrated resource and referral database.
Now, more than ever, parents need emotional support, education, and information, and so we are honored and proud to be working with this premier family strengthening organization. For more information about Parents Anonymous® visit www.parentsanonymous.org.
iCarol is very proud and excited to be an exhibitor at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) virtual conference and tradeshow September 21-24.
This will be iCarol’s second year in attendance at n4a, though things are a bit different this year with the conference and tradeshow being a virtual event. Nonetheless, we are excited to once again celebrate the work of Area Agencies on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) and are amazed at how these organizations have responded and provided continuity of services amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. Older adults and those with health conditions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, but maintaining social connections and other services under social distance has been critical to these individuals. Aging organizations have stepped up in amazing ways to provide consistency and reassurance.
At our virtual n4a booth this week we have information to share about how iCarol empowers ADRCs, AAAs, and Senior Information Lines, and other services for older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers to:
- Collaborate with Community-Based Organizations to address Social Determinants of Health
- Participate in CIE and No Wrong Door initiatives
- Document information included on reimbursement requests
- Meet people on preferred communication channels
- Provide Closed-Loop referral and collect outcome data
- Integrate with other software and systems
If you’re attending the conference, be sure to visit the iCarol virtual booth to learn more, download the resources we have available, and contact us with your questions!