There seems to be constant pressure among millennials to achieve.
At the University of Iowa, each successive year of freshmen claim the new title of the “most accomplished class yet.” As a senior, my Facebook feed is flooded with job acceptances and pictures of people traveling the globe to study and volunteer. In a world hyper saturated with success, it’s often hard to focus on my own path, my own passions.
In the Spring of 2017, I stepped in to W332 in the Adler Journalism Building for a typical day of class. Then my dad called. I ignored it once. My sister texted me, asking if I’d talked to him. He called again. I stepped out of class, knowing something was wrong, and barely made it down the hall before I sunk to the floor, stifling sobs. He told me my cousin had died by suicide the night before.
The rush of confusion, guilt, and anger washed my sadness away. That wouldn’t hit until later, when reality settled in, and it would hit hard. I got up and beelined to the woman’s bathroom, stared myself in the mirror, gave up on understanding the pain in my reflection, mindlessly walked back to class, failed a quiz, and went home to bury myself in bed.
The only quantifiable effect of my cousin Christopher’s death in my life was the drop in my GPA that semester. Yet my heart was never the same.
His death, his suicide at the same age as me, made me question everything. It made me wonder what I’m doing in college, what exactly this degree is supposed to get me, and which experiences really matter.
I’m 21 years old, and for the first time, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. All I know is that old intangible cliché: I want to make a difference.
Losing someone to suicide makes all the tragedies in life feel more poignant and for a while I could imagine how my cousin saw the world before he left it: cold and mean. Lonely. But this does not have to be reality, and I’ve come to realize that making a difference does not have to mean making the world perfect.
When I remember Christopher’s face, I choose to remember him smiling. Playing guitar, laughing. I remember the gray sweater he wore the last time I saw him, how old he suddenly seemed when he had to hunch over to hug me. I remember us grimacing over our glasses of wine, the youngest in the family and the last to learn to like it. The world was still sad and scary sometimes, but it was better off because I could look across the table and there he was.
Just months before his suicide, my cousin reached out to me and told me about moving out of the house and in to his new apartment. He said, “I’m just worried about my mom missing me.”
I reassured him that of course she would miss him, but that would be okay because they had a lifetime together. He’d still see her. Neither of them would be alone. But was he trying to tell me something more? Was this the kind of conversation that could have saved his life, if he had called a crisis line that April night months later?
In a world with so many problems and so many people, my cousin’s death taught me that making a difference in the world can come down to making a difference in one single life. I believe making a difference is as simple as embracing co-dependence, reminding one another we’re in this together.
The insidious demons that caused my cousin’s death did not die with him, they threaten the wellbeing of people across the world. Not only depression but the pain of poverty, addiction, illness — the fear in feeling helpless, alone.
I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know I want to make a difference, I want to fight that fear. The internship I recently accepted with The Crisis Center empowers me to do just that.
I’d like to ask everyone reading to take this number down, to make a note of it:
This is The Crisis Center’s Crisis Line. It does not necessarily mean a suicide hotline. It means a set of ears to listen and a voice to respond, if you even want to talk, which you don’t have to. It means no judgement, no evaluation. It means a human heart, beating with the one on the other end of the line, a person dedicated to nothing but being there.
Please, put us in your contacts: 1-855-325-4296. Call or text if you need someone to talk to, call or text if you are worried about someone you love. Pass the number on if you think someone else needs it. Write it on bathroom stalls, turn it in to a song and sing it while you walk, I don’t care. Just don’t ignore it.
If the only result of my internship is one single person saving that number, I’ve succeeded.
It’s hard to allow vulnerability and weakness. We live in an era of individuality where everyone wants to succeed, and no one wants to ask for help along the way. But being human means being challenged. It means being exhausted. Sometimes, it means wanting to give up. On the assignment driving you crazy, the job you can’t stand, the degree you’ve worked so hard for; on life itself.
The second we start being more open about this fact, the easier it is to overcome. And change doesn’t have to be big. Change can be as simple as answering honestly next time someone asks, “how are you,” and expecting them to do the same. It could be as simple as listening.
Encouraging open lines of communications between loved ones and between complete strangers makes the world a more connected and more caring place. For me, for now, this is the kind of difference I want to make.
Check in with your family and friends, ask them how they are doing. Really ask them. When they ask you, really answer. This question, this conversation, could change the world.
And if you feel alone, with no one to talk to, you’re wrong. We’re listening, at 1-855-325-4296.
How are you?
To join The Crisis Center in their mission, consider volunteering your time to a number of local and remote services: by answering the crisis phone line, answering the online crisis chat/text service. Volunteers are at the heart of the organization. For more information, visit: https://www.jccrisiscenter.org/volunteer-now/
Guest blogger Brooke Clayton is a communications intern at the Crisis Center of Johnson County in Iowa City, Iowa and a senior at the University of Iowa.
Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic, iCarol, or Harris Computer Systems.
From Wednesday, October 17 through Friday, October 19, Rachel Wentink, Vice President, Operations, and Mary Kruger, Client Training Coordinator, will attend the National Crisis Center Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.
The conference theme is “Gateway to Gold: Setting the Standard” with a focus on best practices for optimum success of the attending organizations and their clients. This year’s conference will offer sessions in two tracks focused either on Systems or Centers, with several workshops that satisfy both.
There’s no better group to speak to best practices than the two entities presenting this conference, CONTACT USA (CUSA) and the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD). Both organizations have a phenomenal history of supporting crisis work and we recommend considering membership for your service if you are a helpline, warmline, crisis center, suicide prevention service, or similar organization. By joining them you’ll discover fantastic networking and knowledge sharing from caring individuals who can relate to your day-to-day joys and challenges as a manager or executive director of a not-for-profit. Find out more about CUSA membership here and NASCOD membership here.
Our history with this group and conference 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.
As with all conferences we attend, we welcome the opportunity to connect with old friends and new ones. We’re eager to hear about your latest projects and discuss ways iCarol can support you and the needs of your community. Both Mary and Rachel will be on hand throughout the conference to answer your questions and talk about how iCarol can help. We look forward to seeing you!
The Pre-Chat Survey Queue Indicator gives your organization the ability to include questions in your pre-chat survey that, depending on the answer selected, triggers a corresponding indicator with the conversation when it’s under ‘Waiting in Queue’ and ‘Your conversations’ (found on the main Messaging page). This can be used to aid your volunteers and staff to quickly triage/identify which conversation they should join next based on how the help seeker has answered specific questions set up by your organization.
Your organization may wish to use this feature to indicate any of the following for your conversations:
- Needs: Add one or more questions for the help seeker to identify their need or concern (e.g. mental health, finances, relationships, etc.)
- Contract Type: Add one or more questions for the help seeker to identify what contract/service they are inquiring about (e.g. mobile crisis intake, tax assistance, health insurance navigators, coordinated access, etc.)
- Risk Level: Add one or more questions for the help seeker to answer that can be used to gauge their risk. (e.g. suicide, self-harm, or runaway/homelessness risk)
For example, you may wish to include a question like the one you see highlighted below:
Depending on how the help seeker answers that question, when the conversation appears on your main Messaging page, you’ll see the indicator associated with the answer that your organization setup:
Notice in the screenshot above the text box with some additional information about the help seekers’ concern; this appears when your vols-staff hover their mouse over the indicator and can help them further prioritize which conversation they should join next.
In the example we’ve been looking at, we chose to include just one question that is used to determine which indicator appears for the conversation. But, you have the option to include multiple questions to determine which indicator appears for the conversation. Let’s look at one possible way you could set up multiple questions to use for this feature. For example, you may wish to ask the three questions highlighted below to assess a help seeker’s risk for suicide and create corresponding indicators for High, Medium and Low Risk. Values you assign to each answer will determine the ultimate risk level that appears on the main Messaging page:
The Pre-Chat Survey Queue Indicator feature is included with all Live Chat Messaging subscriptions. If your organization is interested in finding out more about this feature or wants to get started with the setup, sign in to your iCarol system and click here to read the related help article to learn more.
Today marks the official start of National Suicide Prevention Week, with September 10th honored as World Suicide Prevention Day.
Suicide education, awareness, and prevention organizations worldwide are taking this opportunity to promote a few key themes and messages around suicide prevention, notably:
- Every person has a role to play in suicide prevention. The Lifeline works to empower friends, family members, coworkers, and acquaintances to recognize the warning signs and know how best approach the topic of mental health or suicide, rather than simply encouraging people thinking of suicide to call the Lifeline. The #BeThe1To campaign campaign works to empower the public at large to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and know how to help someone who may be suicidal. This campaign also reminds us that suicide is a public health issue, and that we all can take responsibility for preventing suicide given the right knowledge and resources.
- Smashing stigma continues to be the mission of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They take the opportunity of Suicide Prevention Week to encourage people to share their stories and experiences, and reject the stigma and prejudice that cause people to suffer in silence. Similarly, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is promoting the power of connection, and openly talking about mental health in everyday conversations.
- Suicide prevention is a year-round effort. While it’s important to bring attention to the topic of suicide during special events and recognition dates, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) has launched its #AAS365 initiative that focuses on suicide prevention each day of the year. They advocate continuously spreading awareness, advocating for research funding, developing innovative and effective treatment tools, being kind, and helping to educate others on things like resources and warning signs.
It is heartening to see how each year National Suicide Prevention Week grows in its reach and the number of people participating. It is clear that people are becoming more willing to talk about suicide, reach out to loved ones, and have conversations with others about it. One can see the initiatives outlined above in action and ultimately these conversations provide some of the best hope for reducing suicide rates.
To all the suicide prevention helpline volunteers and staff, researchers and doctors, advocates, people with lived experience, and suicide loss survivors — we thank you for your lifesaving work and for raising your voices this week and all year-round to help save lives.
The National Crisis Center Conference presented by CONTACT USA and NASCOD is 4 months away! Details about the conference including conference and hotel registration can be found at http://www.crisiscon.org/. Early bird registration will end August 17th so register now to receive the early bird discount.
This year’s conference will be from October 17th – 19th in St. Louis, Missouri. The conference includes 3 days of best practices, intensive trainings, and networking opportunities with crisis center leaders and managers from around the country.
For those that have not attended a conference before, it is a great way to network with other centers, meet new people, connect with colleagues, as well as learn and share pertinent crisis work information.
Call for papers is now open as well. If you are interested in presenting, please submit your presentation proposal at: http://www.crisiscon.org/program.html. Deadline for submission is Wednesday, July 11th.
Questions? Please contact Gail Selander, CONTACT USA, at email@example.com.
From April 18th through the 21st, Polly McDaniel, Director of Business Development, and Rachel Wentink, Vice President, Operations, will be in Washington, DC for the 51st American Association of Suicidology (AAS) Conference.
As we shared recently, iCarol is now a part of Harris Computer Systems as the flagship product for not-for-profits falling within the CityView portfolio of solutions. As such, we’re delighted to also welcome Sean Higgins, Executive Vice President of CityView, who will be joining us at AAS from Thursday through Friday of that week. Sean is eager to learn more about the industry iCarol serves and meet our customers, and we’re equally excited for all of you to meet him!
Our team will be at booth #202 in the Ballroom Foyer and you’ll also see us at many of the events and sessions, too. It’s important to us to learn about all the latest research, lived experiences, and the expanding needs of crisis centers as they work to build suicide-safer communities. We are looking forward to hearing about how things have been going for your organization, and the exciting initiatives you’ve had going on. We’d also enjoy the opportunity to answer any questions you may have about iCarol and talk with you about how our solution can support your suicide prevention service.
We’ve all been there — you’re minding your own business, running your suicide prevention center and focusing on your clients and staff, when suddenly you’re asked to talk to a journalist for a story about your organization, or comment on the topic of suicide prevention for an article. Does the very idea of this cause you to break out into a cold sweat? If it does, you’re certainly not alone!
If you feel uncomfortable or unprepared when it comes time to communicate effectively and succinctly with the media or the public, then I hope you’ll join us for our next webinar on Wednesday, April 4th at 2pm EST.
We’ll be joined by Chris Maxwell, Communications Coordinator for the American Association of Suicidology, for a webinar on the topic of crafting effective messaging for your crisis center. This webinar is designed to help crisis center directors, program managers, and others with the responsibility of communication on behalf of your organization, to communicate effectively about your services, needs, and the topic of suicide.
About Our Presenter:
American Association of Suicidology
Chris is the Communications Coordinator for the American Association of Suicidology. He has worked in the suicide prevention and mental health field for the past nine years, first as a volunteer crisis counselor and then later as a statewide suicide prevention grant administrator. In a previous position with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, he worked closely with crisis centers across the country to connect and collaborate. Chris is passionate about understanding suicide, harnessing the capability of social media to prevent it, and strives to advocate for the voices of those with lived experience. He is a production team member of the #SPSM (Suicide Prevention and Social Media) community. Chris is an advisory board member for OurDataHelps.org, which allows people to donate their social media data to be used for mental health research and allow clinicians to create treatment tools. Follow Chris on twitter @chrsmxwll.
Learn More and Register
“Net neutrality” is a term you’ve likely heard in recent months, but did you know that the repeal of these regulations could directly and negatively effect crisis services, suicide prevention, and other aspects of this industry’s online presence and serving consumers on those channels?
Beau Pinkham, Director of Crisis Intervention Services at the Crisis Center of Johnson County, recently penned an article on this topic on his organization’s blog. If you attended our recent webinar you know that Beau is well-versed in providing services online, and the technological hurdles crisis centers must navigate in delivering these services. He writes, in part:
Volunteers at The Crisis Center answer about 30,000 crisis contacts each year. About half of those are calls to the 24-hour hotline and half are chats. Soon, chat will surpass phone calls as the primary mode by which people in crisis get help. Demand is at an all-time high but nationally, only 9 percent of chats are answered.
At IowaCrisisChat.org, we are just beginning to find new, innovative ways to close the gap; but the FCC changed the rules and we are losing control.
What we built over the last decade is under threat. This entire system, like much of the web, was built with the assumption of open, equitable Internet in which everyone can participate. The FCC tearing net neutrality apart literally puts lives at stake.
To read his full article, click here.
The Frank Capra Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” tops many lists for holiday viewing, and it’s already making the rounds on TV channels everywhere (check your local listings!). But have you ever stopped and thought about how this popular and enduring holiday program centers around the topic of one man’s suicide plan? Most people view the film casually and for them the suicide aspect of the story may take a backseat to the other major themes. For anyone working in the suicide prevention or crisis industry though, it’s hard not to view the film from that unique perspective.
13 thoughts of crisis workers when watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”
- It bothers you that the movie perpetuates the myth that suicide rates go up at Christmastime
- You’re envious of the detailed and factual background Clarence has on George, and think of how helpful this would be when working with your clients
- You know of a dozen people you’ve spoken to this month who are in way worse circumstances than George, but knowing how complex and unique suicide can be for each person you’d never judge George for feeling how he does
- You can list all the warning signs that George is giving, and yell at the other characters for not picking up on them
- Even better, you wish someone would talk to George about his behavior and ask him directly if he was thinking of suicide
- You cheer on Mary when she calls a family member to talk about how George was behaving, and doesn’t keep his behavior a secret. Mary – 1 Stigma and Shame – 0
- George’s story reminds you of all the people you’ve spoken to that thought their suicide would be what’s best for their family
- You note the high lethality of George’s plan for suicide
- And think of how more bridges need suicide barriers for this very reason
- It angers you when Clarence tells George he “shouldn’t say such things” when George discusses suicide, effectively shutting him down and judging him rather than listening to why he feels this way.
- You’re relieved when George finds his reasons for living
- You’re thankful for the happy ending, but you know that it’s rarely wrapped up so easily
- You’re reminded of why you do the work you do
Have you had any of these thoughts while watching this classic film? Got any other thoughts to add? We’d love to hear from you, leave us a comment!
And while you may not have wings, we know the countless individuals touched by your caring voices consider you all guardian angels. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to saving lives, during the holidays and all year ’round.