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Posts Tagged ‘Helplines’

Join us for Bell Let’s Talk Day

Bell Let's Talk

Today’s a big day for Canadian mental health initiatives: It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day!

This annual event draws attention to 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, and use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on Twitter. They can also share the Bell Let’s Talk image via Bell’s Facebook page. For each share of this image, and each Tweet using the hashtag, Bell donates $.05 to mental health initiatives and programs across Canada (including many services that are part of the iCarol family!).

To learn more, check out the video below which summarizes five years of Bell Let’s Talk. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and Tweet along with us to raise awareness and remove the stigma from the conversation about mental health!

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Information and Referral Day

Beginning in 2011, when the Unites States Senate first recognized Information and Referral Services Day, November 16th was designated to raise public awareness and recognize the critical importance of the I&R field.

Every day thousands of people find the help they need quickly, conveniently and free of charge because of Information and Referral (I&R) services. I&R services come in all shapes and sizes, from crisis lines that provide their local community with a core set of human service referrals, to larger scale 2-1-1 centers and statewide 2-1-1 networks providing comprehensive Information and Referral services to entire states or provinces covering many different topics and types of services.

Information and Referral is the art, science and practice of bringing people and services together and is an integral component of the health and human services sector. People in search of critical services such as shelter, financial assistance, food, jobs, or mental health support often do not know where to begin to get help, or they get overwhelmed trying to find what they need. I&R services recognize that when people in need are more easily connected to the services that will help them, thanks to knowledgeable I&R professionals, it reduces frustration and ensures that people reach the proper services quickly and efficiently.

The people who work these lines are consummate professionals who are often times like living, breathing encyclopedias; providing answers to questions ranging from, “Where can I get a free meal for my family” to “There’s a horse running loose in my neighborhood, who do I call?” We at iCarol are really honored to have so many Information and Referral services all across the world use our software to help provide these services to people who reach them via phone, chat, or text.

If you’d like to learn more about what iCarol does to support efficient referral management, check out this page of our website that goes over some of those features. You’re also welcome to join one of our regular webinars that focuses solely on our Information and Referral tools. We hope you’ll join us sometime to learn more.

Happy I & R Day, everyone, and kudos on the awesome work you do connecting people with the services they need!

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New York Times article: Small Towns Face Rising Suicide Rates

The New York Times published an article last week detailing the rising suicide rates throughout small towns and rural areas in the US.

The findings stem from a few different studies and reports, namely a report by the CDC on rates of suicide by urbanization of the county of residence, and Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics division outlining widening rural-urban disparities in youth suicide.

The article discusses several theories on potential contributing factors including:

  • Isolation
  • Ease of access to high lethality means like firearms
  • A “Cowboy up” attitude to addressing problems, and resistance to asking for help
  • Limited access to sufficient mental health care — The Department of Health and Human Services says 55% of counties in the United States have no psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers
  • Stigma of mental health treatment exacerbated by lack of anonymity

If interested, you can read the full article here.

What do you think of the findings outlined in the article, and the contributing factors they pose? If your helpline is in a rural area, would you agree with what’s outlined in the article? How is your community addressing these issues? We’re interested to hear what you think, leave us a comment!

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Kids Help Phone launches Bro talk

Reaching out to talk about your problems and stresses can be tough for anyone, especially teens. According to the staff of Kids Help Phone, teen boys are less likely to reach out than their female counterparts, accounting for only 1 in 5 of their contacts. By the time they do contact someone, the situation has often become critical or even life threatening.

Mike Spike Bro Talk

In an effort to encourage young men to reach out about any topic, big or small, Kids Help Phone has launched Bro Talk, a service aimed specifically at teen guys. The newly launched website provides information about topics of concern to teen boys, real life stories, an FAQ about the service, and provides multi-channel communication options for them to speak to Kids Help Phone counsellors. Bro Talk was made possible by the Movember Foundation, a global men’s health organization.

We’re honored to be working with Kids Help Phone on this and other projects, and we’d like to thank them for stopping by our Toronto office with some of these cool Bro Talk tee shirts! We think Mike and Spike made the perfect bro models!

Learn more about Bro Talk by visiting the website, and check out the news story below.

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Looking back on our trip to Detroit

Last week Eliisa, Jackie, and I spent time in Detroit at the annual conference held jointly by the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD) and CONTACT USA (CUSA).

The conference was held in the Renaissance Center, which is an incredible complex of several buildings right on the Detroit waterfront. The complex contains the Marriott Hotel, a number of restaurants and a food court, business offices, a GM showroom, and more. It’s a bustling center filled with activity and industry and a pretty cool place to visit.

GM Renaissance Center Detroit
Photo shared from the Marriott website

Attending these conferences serves a couple of purposes for us. It gives members of our team a chance to meet in person to work on projects that we’re otherwise working on virtually together. While working through online meetings is very productive and has its perks, there’s something to be said for changing it up periodically and getting to nail out some stuff together in the same room. I’m happy to say we had a couple great work sessions that are going to result in some pretty awesome stuff for iCarol.

Jackie, Eliisa, Dana (photographer) and Britt (joining us virtually from Germany!) all working together on marketing and business development activities

Of course one of the other reasons we attend these conferences is to meet up with members of the helpline industry, whether it’s getting some facetime with the clients we know and love, or getting the chance to talk to new friends about iCarol. On Wednesday night we went out to dinner with several leaders of both NASCOD and CUSA for a fantastic meal at Andiamo in the Renaissance Center.

Our dinner was delicious but what was really great was the chance to catch up with the members of these groups, hear about what’s going on at their crisis centers, and discuss all the wonderful and difficult things about operating a helpline. Plus it’s so nice getting to know everyone a little better and just relaxing a bit. Oh and the chocolate tuxedo cake. I mean, for real you guys, it was incredible. So life changing I had to tweet about it.

Thursday presented the opportunity to tour two local organizations, Common Ground and Neighborhood Services Organization.

Our first stop was at Common Ground. This organization is located in Pontiac, Michigan and provides numerous services to the community. Just a few services they offer include: Mobile crisis, face-to-face assessment, crisis intervention and stabilization, crisis residential units, shelter and residential counseling to runaways, victim assistance program, mental health first aid training, and 24-hour helpline that responds via phone, chat, and text. And that really just scratches the surface, I encourage you to explore their website to learn all about their wonderful programs.

We got to tour most of this facility and I found it to be such a welcoming, safe space. You could tell that a lot of care is taken to make the center feel warm and comfortable, for instance the residential unit did not feel at all cold or sterile or “hospital-esque.”

art exhibit
A traveling exhibit featuring art by consumers was on display.

One interesting stop we made on the tour was to one of the recreational rooms which also housed a beautiful kitchen. The executive chef was preparing a special birthday dinner for one of the consumers, and noted that in addition to providing nourishing meals there were components to his work that involved teaching their consumers about food prep, healthy eating, and also providing some counseling services.

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The meal being prepared smelled very enticing!

A personal highlight of the tour was getting to see Common Ground’s 24 hour call center. We’re honored to have these guys in the iCarol family and it’s always a treat to see the space in which these hardworking crisis professionals are providing their services. Common Ground provides 24 hour phone support, but they also use iCarol to provide chat and texting to their community. In fact, they’re one of several clients who have gone the way of text-enabling their existing helpline number, which means people can text into the same number that they call. We’re glad to hear that this is going great for Common Ground, and other clients are loving it, too. We’ll be bringing you some success stories around text-enabling in another blog at a later date, but for now you can read more details about text enabling here.

common ground 24 hour call center staff
Eliisa with the staff of Common Ground’s 24 hour helpline.

Next up was a visit to Neighborhood Services Organization back in Detroit. Housed in former Bell Yellow Pages facility, as soon as you arrive you can tell that this $50 million community investment was a real labor of love for all involved. You can check out photos of the renovation here and a video on the building’s history and renovation here.

NSO bell building yellow pages mural front entrance
A beautiful mural depicting the Bell Building greets visitors and residents at the entrance.

One program of NSO found in the Bell Building is their Emergency Telephone Service and Suicide Prevention Center (ETS/SPC) which has provided free, 24-hour telephone crisis intervention, suicide prevention and information and referral services for over 37 years. According to NSO’s most recent annual report, in 2014 they responded to 65,743 callers including 750 who were experiencing a suicidal crisis.

NSO LaNeice tour of call centerLaNeice Jones, Vice President of Programs for NSO and one of our conference hosts, gives us a tour of the call center.

The building also houses NSO staff offices, and contains 155 furnished, one-bedroom apartments for adults who are working their way beyond their former homelessness. NSO provides a full spectrum of services for the residents, including case management, addictions and mental health treatment, and education on financial literacy and nutrition classes. Having all these services located in a single location and easily accessible to the residents helps address the root causes of homelessness and helps restore lives.

At the Bell Building there is also a health care clinic which serves not just residents, but other members of the community. And the facility also includes amenities like a gym, fitness room with treadmills and other exercise equipment, computer lab, chapel, and recreation areas.

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Indoor landscaping beautified one common area.

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A gymnasium and rooftop garden were among the many amenities.

If I had to pick one overarching theme or message as I walked through Neighborhood Services Organization it was “Home.” This place is so much more than housing. Yes, it puts a roof over someone’s head, but they are also treating the whole person and addressing the challenges that contribute to homelessness. And all this occurs in a beautiful space that brings dignity to their journey, a place where a true community is formed. So, yes, “Home” is such a fitting word. And ironically as I was writing this blog I found this touching video that perfectly sums up that sentiment.

After our tours we headed back to the hotel, but LaNeice had a surprise in store for us first! We stopped at the original location of Motown Records! It was very cool to see this historical site where some of America’s greatest music hits were born.

20151022_171237-1Stop in the name of love! Dana, LaNeice, and Eliisa pay tribute to The Supremes.

The rest of the conference itself was filled with compelling and highly educational sessions, and we’re sure all the attendees left feeling energized. If you want to catch up on what it was like to attend, check out the hashtag #CrisisDir15 on Twitter. All of us tweeting throughout the conference included this in our tweets and by searching it you can follow along and feel as if you were right there with us (though I hope this blog also accomplished that, too 🙂 ).

If you want to get in on all the fun for future conferences, we highly recommend NASCOD membership and CONTACT USA accreditation. Both of these organizations offer such great resources to their members and are of extreme value to any helpline.

We’re so thankful to have been a part of this conference! Special thanks goes out to the Board of Directors for both NASCOD and CUSA, as well as our conference hosts LaNeice and Lisa who truly made everyone feel welcome and at home in Detroit.

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CUSA/NASCOD to hold annual conference in Detroit this October

From October 22nd to 24th, members of our team will be in Detroit for the CUSA/NASCOD conference. We’re really excited to see so many friends and clients who gather at this annual conference which is so popular among crisis and suicide prevention centers.

If your center isn’t already accredited by CONTACT USA, or if you aren’t already a NASCOD member, we encourage you to consider both for your helpline.

CONTACT USA provides one of the most well known and respected crisis center accreditations in the industry. When you are accredited by CONTACT USA it shows your funders that they are contributing to a worthwhile and effective program, and also connects you to a national and international community of those who provide emotional support and crisis intervention all over the world. Further, your community will be assured that your organization provides the highest quality of service. To find out more about this accreditation, you can visit their website.

NASCOD membership is a great resource for Executive Directors or Program Managers of crisis centers. The group provides regular peer support calls on a number of different helpful topics, and group members are regularly networking, discussing challenges, sharing ideas, and generally supporting one another. Many NASCOD members are also iCarol clients and we really enjoy our relationship with the group and its members, iCarol clients and non-clients alike.

If you’re going to be in Detroit we’d love to take some time to chat with you while you’re in town. We’ll be around all throughout the conference so please stop by and say “hi!” Or, if you’d like to arrange a time to meet with us at the conference, contact ahead of time to set up a time to talk with her about your helpline and to learn more about iCarol. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone in October!

Stay tuned for further blogs from us about the conference, and we’ll be tweeting throughout the conference, too, so follow us on Twitter!

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West Virginia Launches First Statewide 24-hour Mental Health and Substance Abuse Helpline

Help4WV

Congratulations to iCarol clients Help4WV on starting the first statewide 24-hour mental health and substance abuse hotline in West Virginia. Read the governor’s announcement and other articles, and be sure to follow them on Twitter, too!

Congrats again to the staff of Help4WV from the team here at iCarol, and thank you for your service to the people of West Virginia!

Want your helpline’s accomplishments featured on our blog? You can anytime!

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Share your National Suicide Prevention Week stories

NSPW logo

We’re now in the midst of National Suicide Prevention Week and tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day. We’ve seen tons of great graphics, articles, tips, fact sheets, infographics, and more being shared on the websites and social media feeds of all the top suicide prevention industry organizations.

But we know that it’s you guys at the crisis and suicide prevention hotlines that are often on the front lines providing direct services like listening, safety planning, intervening, and spreading messages of hope to the people chatting, texting, or calling you. Your openness to talking about topics that make most people uncomfortable deeply impacts your clients in a positive way. And we know you’re also participating with your own awareness plans this month. So we’d love to draw some attention to your work and any local or national exposure you may be getting.

Has anyone on your staff been interviewed by the media and provided quotes for news articles? Has your helpline been profiled or highlighted by a newspaper or online media? Are you holding a fundraiser?

We’d really like to share links to articles, photos, etc. to promote the ways your helpline has participated in suicide prevention and awareness activities this month. Please leave a comment below, or , and we’ll share your stories throughout the rest of this month.

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5 Ways to Improve Your Disaster Response

September is considered the peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic, but disaster can strike all year ’round and in all regions. Earthquakes, wildfires, blizzards, tornados, floods, super storms – all areas have seen their share of destructive events.hurricane rita eye storm satellite

Non-profit helplines play a large role in any community’s disaster plan. Local governments often partner with these helplines and advertise their contact information during disasters as a place to contact for non-emergency information and referral. Information about shelters, emergency food or water drops, road closures, and shelter-in-place tips, are just a few examples of the information that these helplines can relay to the public in a local emergency.

The availability of such services in times of disaster is crucial – they serve as a way for residents to get much needed information and listening support, while also reducing the burden on local government and diverting non-emergency calls away from 9-1-1.

Providing this service presents unique challenges to helpline staff, but iCarol offers a number of solutions to reduce the stress of being there for your community during emergencies.

Benefit from Partnerships

During a disaster helplines in a region often need to work together to coordinate response. Some disasters may force one or more local helplines to close entirely, or at a minimum a helpline may be short staffed. Using iCarol you can easily share responsibility for managing call/text/chat volume and resource maintenance by using our collaborative options.

We’ve discussed in previous posts how you can build chat or text networks using iCarol, and such a collaboration would come in extra handy if your center needs to shut down or simply offload some traffic during a disaster. And most phone systems allow for the easy transfer or forwarding of calls.

With Call Report sharing capabilities, forms used by one center can be set up for use by another helpline in the event calls, texts, or chats are being routed elsewhere. By setting up these shared forms, the original call center can be certain that the center answering calls is filling out all the necessary information and collecting the essential data as if the call was being handled by the original center. You’ll still be able to review the forms and collect statistics on those calls handled by your partner.

route chat text calls

Collaboration is not just limited to call reporting forms, however. Helplines can also share a database of community referrals and resources with other helplines so that in the event of an emergency, these helplines can access resources not just in their own community, but elsewhere in the region. Further, helplines can partner together to not only access this database to give referrals to help seeker, but can also share in the responsibility of editing these resources.

Collect Essential Data

In the event of a disaster, helplines will likely have specific data they wish to collect on those disaster-related calls, as well as needing a way to separate those calls, chats, or texts from others that may ring through to the center. It’s also very common for local governmental and other agencies to request this data from the helplines so they can monitor the needs of the community and respond accordingly for this and future events.

The key to collecting data in iCarol is found within the customizable report forms you fill out for each client interaction. Using the robust form editing tools, staff can add necessary questions and other fields for data collection when needed, so as soon as the disaster-related calls come in they are ready to collect the necessary information on the form. Staff can also use this capability to create a simple checkbox where call takers can note that the call was related to the disaster event, which will help identify these calls during statistical reporting later.

form data collection disaster response

When it’s time to report on the helpline’s calls, staff can run various spreadsheets, reports, and charts. Results are available in real-time and can be filtered based on whether or not the call was related to the disaster, making it easy to run reports specific to the event, excluding unrelated calls.

disaster reporting

Offer Alternative Channels

Offering alternative channels becomes especially important during a disaster. Phone lines may be down or it may be easier for people in need to text you during these trying times. Plus the mobility of texting means that someone can reach out to you from anywhere, even if they’ve been displaced from their home.

With iCarol you have complete control over when your messaging service is available, so you can very quickly create a shift and open up your channels as needed. You could even have a special portal specifically for disaster that has its own special report form that collects all the necessary information. And remember with Messaging you can offer all the same referrals and run the same statistical reports as you would for phone calls.

Increase Your Bandwidth

An emergency in your community means your volume could increase, so reaching your volunteers and staff is important. Inside iCarol you can promptly send out an email blast or mass text to alert your staff and volunteers of information they need to know, or ask for additional staffing. Quickly adjust your shift calendar to accommodate more open spots and assign your workers to shifts on the fly.

extra shifts

If you’d like to specifically track disaster staffing, consider creating new shifts and naming them accordingly for easy reporting. Analyze the hours worked for use in future planning, or to apply for future grants or compensation that may be offered by local governments and other organizations.

Worker hours stats

iCarol can be reached from any internet connected device, so you could explore work-from-home options for disaster staffing. You may wish to temporarily turn off any restrictions in place for which computers can access iCarol, or grant certain staff the ability to certify their home computers.

Provide Critical Information and Referral

During any sort of emergency, information could develop rapidly and change throughout the event. As your resource managers receive information from the various community agencies or collect information released by your local government, they can respond quickly. Update resource records accordingly, or create new ones with just a few clicks. Use the iCarol News area to post the most up-to-date information; it’ll be front and center when your volunteers first sign on so they won’t miss the latest updates.

Much like we mentioned earlier with alternative channels, a disaster could mean that even more people are seeking information in alternative ways. Help seekers likely want self-service options to find resources. This is where your Public Resource Directory comes in. Visitors to your website can use an embedded search of your live resource database right on your website to find what they need.

You can even quickly add highlighted resources during a disaster event to point your visitors right to the information and resources they need. You can also set up advanced, guided searches that are both visually appealing and direct your community to the right resources

Public Resource Directory

Our API is another option for referral sharing, giving you and your developers access to your resource data so it can be used in whatever ways you see fit, such as creating a home built web directory, mobile apps, and more.

Providing assistance to your community during a disaster is a lot of work, but having so many time-saving tools integrated in your helpline software will take some of the stress out of the event, and your seamless response will prove that your helpline is an invaluable resource in your community. And even if your center doesn’t use iCarol, I hope this blog has sparked some ideas for how your helpline can plan ahead and more easily provide services when your community needs it most.

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A message on the one year anniversary of Robin Williams’ death

One year ago today the world lost a beloved actor, comedian, and humanitarian to suicide. For many people this was the first time suicide touched their life, and for others it was a reminder of painful losses or struggles they personally experienced in their own lives. Universally Robin Williams’ death ignited a conversation about suicide, recovery from substance abuse, depression, and other mental illnesses. Many helplines reported increased call volume for weeks and months following his death.

The American Association of Suicidology released a statement that includes some helpful information. We encourage you to take a look by visiting their Facebook post about this anniversary.

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