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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
LaNeice 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.
Indoor landscaping beautified one common area.
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.
Stop 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.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will provide up to $46.8 million in funding over the next few years to support suicide prevention programs as well as those that meet the emotional needs of people affected by disasters.
According to a SAMHSA press release, one grant for up to $18.6 million over the next three years will be awarded to Link2Health Solutions, Inc. of New York, which manages the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) and the National Disaster Distress Helpline (Helpline).
The Lifeline, a national network of suicide prevention helplines which can be reached by dialing 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or via live chat through their webside, will be receive up to $15.9 million from the grant so they can continue to administer and grow the network.
Since its inception, the Lifeline has responded to 7,514,238 calls from people in crisis. Last year it responded to more than 1.3 million calls, which is an average of 3,719 calls daily, nationwide.
Our congratulations and continued appreciation goes out to the helplines that provide this service, many of whom we’re honored to have as clients. You can click here to read the full press announcement.
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.
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!
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recently posted an article highlighting the work of suicide prevention hotline volunteers, particularly those who may work at one of the 166 crisis centers (a great number of which use iCarol Helpline Software) that make up the Lifeline network.
Check out this interview NAMI did with some former Lifeline volunteers about their experiences.
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.
Reports of gun violence often dominate media coverage in the US, and unfortunately in the United States far more people die by gun violence than any other developed nation in the world. A fact often not mentioned when talking about gun violence though, is that in the US deaths by suicide using a gun are about double the number of deaths by homicide using a gun. These and other statistics are available via GunPolicy.org, a website supported by the United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation.
In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has put out a number of infographics for distribution on social media and websites to promote gun safety as it pertains to suicide prevention. You can view them all, download them, and then share them on your site or social media feed by visiting this page.
Suicide Prevention Week will be here soon, recognized from September 7th – 13th with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th. There are lots of ways that crisis centers or the general public can recognize this upcoming event.
Join an Out of the Darkness Walk near you. These walks help raise awareness as well as money for research and education. During the month of September, particularly during suicide prevention Week, dozens of these walks will be held. Find one near you and register today.
Donate to a suicide prevention service in your area. You can donate to organizations that focus on research or education, though we humbly suggest you consider donating to a helpline that provides direct help and suicide prevention to those in need. Whether you’re in Canada, the US, or another country, there are suicide prevention lines near you that would greatly appreciate your donation and will put it to excellent use in directly preventing suicide in your community.
Volunteer for a suicide prevention service. These services are always looking for qualified volunteers to answer phones, help with fundraising efforts, and more. Suicide prevention month is a great time to start the application process. Suicide prevention centers could also run volunteer recruitment campaigns to coincide with the heightened awareness and attention.
Fundraise for your local suicide prevention helpline. Much like volunteer recruitment, the increased attention and awareness of suicide prevention will mean that many people will be compelled to do something to help the cause, and so your message and request for support will resonate with your community.
Educate yourself on the topic of suicide. Did you know that suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in Canada and 10th in the United States, or that the elderly are at the highest risk of suicide? By learning the notable statistics, risk factors, warning signs, and myths about suicide, you’ll be empowered to do more and share that knowledge with others.
Spread the word with social media. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or all of the above, post information in support of suicide awareness and prevention. Try sharing some of those facts you learned, or share a personal story about how suicide has touched your life, or the life of someone you care about. Discussing suicide goes a long way in reducing stigma and bringing the issue out into the open where it belongs! If you run a helpline, you can ramp up your social media presence as well by sharing facts about your helpline, success stories, requests for support, suicide myths vs. facts, etc.
Alert the media and use your expertise or experience as a helpline agency to do a story on suicide prevention in your community and how people can be helped by contacting you. Agencies that have texting and live chat services always have a great angle for contacting the media to do a story on how those struggling with suicidal thoughts can use those services if they don’t want to call on the phone.
Whether you take one of these actions, or do something different, it’s important to recognize suicide prevention week. Your actions will show others that you care about raising awareness of suicide, and preventing it.
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.
One key feature of iCarol is the ability to link and share service delivery with other helplines in a variety of ways. Historically a common partnership scenario involves call centers who pass some or all of their calls to other iCarol-using centers either as after-hours contracts, or on an as-needed basis for overflow. iCarol accommodates these partnerships with call report sharing capabilities. Much the same with resources, centers can share resource databases with others who may be taking their calls, or to better service the needs of help-seekers with a wider range of potential services to refer them to, or through setting up provincial and state-wide resource databases to be accessed by a network of helplines who can all take part in maintaining these resources, thus reducing burden to each individual center.
These same principles of sharing volume to benefit centers and clients alike also extends to iCarol Messaging, and in recent month’s we’ve made improvements in this arena.
As an example, one nationwide network using iCarol was using a sort of round-robin approach in how to route chats to the centers who were members of that network. Visitors would arrive to the website and click through to chat, and from there they’d be routed to one of the centers based on the schedule, and the coverage area of the center. Once they were properly routed, they’d arrive at that center’s registration page and after completing registration they’d appear in just that center’s messaging queue.
There are some challenges to this approach, namely:
The routing system didn’t take counselor availability into account so chats may be routed but the destination center may be overwhelmed with other work and short on counselors to take chats
The visitor was visible just in the iCarol system to which they were routed
Registration pages may have a different look and feel, depending on the center to which the visitor was sent
Lack of control over the data being collected by individual centers
Statistics could not be run in real-time; they had to be aggregated first
Our developers have been working on a new approach for this network, and they’re currently using it to much success during the pilot period. So, how does the approach work now? The network is using a single shared “portal” made available to the participating centers in their iCarol systems, rather than routing the chats as it did before. This means:
Standardized registration pages make for a more consistent look and feel, and better branding for the network
Pre-written messages, reporting forms, and data collection are standardized
The network system directly hosts and controls their own data, so they get better reporting capabilities
Chats are visible to any center serving the visitor’s area, meaning better load balancing and shorter wait times for visitors, fewer abandoned chats
Chats are clearly marked as being from the network, but appear in the same queue as the center’s other local chats for ease of use
We’re excited to say that this pilot period has gone very well and the network is enjoying the benefits of the shared portal technology.
We’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your network whether it’s provincial/statewide, or national, to see how this functionality could improve and streamline your messaging services and benefit all your participating centers and visitors alike. Current iCarol users, please open a case with us, or if you’re not using iCarol yet please contact us to learn more!