September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, marking the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week. During this week, millions of people will be speaking out about the impact suicide has on individuals, families, and communities, raising awareness and promoting messages on how best to prevent suicide. So many caring organizations worldwide will be adding their voices to this important message. In order to make the biggest and deepest impact, it’s helpful to unite around a common theme and messaging to amplify our voices.
The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is leading the way with a host of resources and information on their website to help organizations rally around a centralized theme of being there for others, a theme several well-known suicide prevention organizations have been promoting this year.
It’s a very simple yet powerful message, and it helps reinforce what we already know: Suicide prevention is everyone’s business, and we can all do something to help prevent suicide. Those of us who have worked at suicide prevention helplines know how effective the simple act of listening is. Just by being a sounding board, a safe place for someone to air their darkest thoughts without facing judgment, you can save a life. When a person knows that someone is willing to listen and offer their help or support and not be scared away by talk of suicide, they feel less isolated and alone with their thoughts, and can envision a better path forward.
In addition to rallying around messages of being there, the Action Alliance also encourages everyone to use #NSPW in their social media posts. This will boost all of our messages and ensures the topic trends online and receives the attention it deserves.
Visit the Action Alliance website for all the materials you need to participate. They have sample social media posts you can use, frames for your Facebook profile pic, and more.
Together we can bring lots of attention to National Suicide Prevention Week, and show people in need that they are loved, supported, and have a place to turn when needed.
Since its debut on Netflix earlier this year, the drama “13 Reasons Why,” an adaptation of a young adult novel, has spurred much discussion among suicide prevention experts and mental health advocates.
The series follows the story of Hannah, a teenager who has recently died by suicide. As her parents, teachers and friends process the loss, Hannah’s close friend and crush, Clay, finds himself obsessed with Hannah’s death, what caused her to kill herself, and how it may have been prevented. He is plagued by the “what ifs” of their time together. A mysterious delivery sends Clay further down a path of grief, regret, and ultimately the start of healing and learning lessons from loss.
Some have praised the series for drawing awareness to the topic of suicide. “13 Reasons Why” is one of Netflix’s most watched programs of 2017 and has exposed people to suicide and the intense grief of survivors, and also issues like sexual assault, drug addiction, and bullying.
Unfortunately, the show is riddled with problematic content. Hannah’s suicide is romanticized, especially in the context of the star-crossed lovers relationship between Hannah and Clay. Suicide is portrayed as an acceptable method of revenge, and the revenge element often overshadows the complex and mounting reasons that Hannah took her own life. Opportunities to show how teens might reach out, and successfully receive help, are missed, and in fact it shows only how attempt’s to get help could go horribly wrong. Teenagers could construe this message as discouraging help-seeking from adults. Finally, and most upsetting, is the fact that Hannah’s suicide is graphically depicted, going against guidelines that suicide experts outline for the media. For a program aimed and marketed towards teens, who are particularly vulnerable to influence and suicide contagion, these are some dangerous missteps that overshadow any awareness message.
Suicide prevention experts and advocates have been speaking out about “13 Reasons Why” since it was released, and that includes Beau Pinkham, Director of Crisis Intervention Services at The Crisis Center of Johnson County, Iowa. In a recent Op-Ed, Beau lays out the dangers of the series’ depiction of suicide and the effects it is having. You can read Beau’s Op-Ed in the Des Moines Register here.
Have you watched “13 Reasons Why?” What were your thoughts? Please leave us a comment below.
The opinions expressed in this blog entry belong to the blog author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of iCarol Software management or its other employees
From August 1-3, Polly and Rachel will attend the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) conference on suicide prevention, held in Denver, CO.
Every two years the DoD and VA collaborate to host the Suicide Prevention Conference. The conference focuses on suicide prevention efforts across both departments and is the only suicide prevention conference that specifically addresses suicide among Military and Veteran populations at a national level. This year’s conference theme, #BeThere – It Takes a Community, is consistent with DoD and VA methodologies, which require a multi-pronged strategy for prevention including: media messaging, non-medical interventions, mental health interventions, training for gatekeepers, peer-to- peer support, troop and family member training, and leadership engagement. The DoD and VA recognize that education on a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention is vital.
This will be iCarol’s first year attending this conference, though suicide prevention for Veteran and active duty service members is a topic with which we’re familiar through our work in the suicide prevention industry at large, and our relationships with many clients who serve this population. Through our first visit to this conference we hope to learn even more about the unique needs and best practices for serving Veterans and active duty members of the armed services.
To read more about our work in this industry, click here.
From April 26th through the 29th, members of our team will be in Phoenix for the 50th American Association of Suicidology Conference.
We’ll have a booth at the conference and you’ll see us at many of the events and sessions, too. It’s important to us to learn about and be aware of all the latest research and the expanding needs of helplines as they work to build suicide-safer communities.
We hope you’ll stop by our booth and let us know how things have been going for your organization, and tell us about the exciting initiatives you’ve had going on. We’ll be available to answer any questions you may have about iCarol, and we’ll have some fun activities to check out that are brand new this year!
In particular we’d really enjoy hearing your feedback about the new iCarol Ideas Portal we recently released. We’re excited to hear from our users about how it’s going, what you like about it, and any other feedback you may have. So if you’ve used the Ideas Portal, we definitely want to see you!
With all the excitment and so much going on, the time at the conference goes by quickly, so please look us up at the conference, or
beforehand to schedule some time to chat so we’re sure not to miss the opportunity to see you!
We look forward to seeing you and learning about all the latest in the life-saving work being done by the helpline industry so that we can continue to build our systems to support you.
Proponents of same-sex marriage advocated for legalization not just because they saw it as a basic human and legal right for all couples to marry, but many also argued that equality under the law could lift up young people feeling lost and hopeless.
Data is emerging that suggests this theory is valid.
Each year since 1991, a sample of high school students in the US participate in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, an annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. The anonymous survey, roughly 90 questions long, asks about everything from cyber bullying to sexual assault to carrying weapons to dating violence, and beyond. There is also a section of the survey that asks about students’ feelings of hopelessness, whether they have attempted suicide, and if so, how many times.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those aged 15-24, but gay, lesbian, and bisexual students surveyed are far more likely to have made a suicide attempt than their straight peers, 29% to about 6%, respectively. The survey does not ask about gender identity. Researchers analyzed data collected between 1999 and 2015, and focused on studying differences in survey results between states that legalized same-sex marriage during that time, and those that did not.
The study found that in the 32 states passing marriage equality measures between 2004 and 2015, youth suicide attempts decreased overall, even among students who identified as heterosexual. But among students who reported being gay, lesbian, or bisexual, suicide attempt rates dropped by 14%. There was no change the rate of suicide attempt in states that did not have marriage equality as of January 2015.
Researchers noted that as with all studies, a simple correlation does not mean causation. However the link between the decrease in attempts among LGB students in just these states is worth contemplation. It suggests, as supporters have been saying for years, that societal stigma towards the LGBT community is harmful to sexual minority youth, and can increase feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Even though most high schoolers are not thinking about marriage, achieving the legal right brings a sense of legitimacy and equality, and leads to a normalization of same-sex relationships and counters the sense that they are wrong or immoral.
For more on this study and the results:
Many of our clients participate in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline is a network of over 160 crisis centers in the U.S. These centers take calls and chats from all across the country, focusing on suicide prevention. These free and confidential services provide crisis support and community resource referrals, 24-hours a day.
Members of the Lifeline network follow proven protocols and guidelines to ensure safe outcomes for those in crisis. Whether you offer crisis services and/or are part of the Lifeline network, protocols and guidelines are critical to the success of your program. Ensuring they are easy to follow not only gives you better outcomes for those in crisis, but makes it easier for your staff and volunteers to do their important work.
I’m often asked by members of the Lifeline network and others in the field doing crisis center work why they should choose iCarol. Very simply put, iCarol is the expert in helping not-for-profit helplines set up their technology, to best support the protocols mentioned above.
In my experience managing a not-for-profit helpline who took calls for the Lifeline, as well as helping iCarol clients do the same, here is how iCarol can help:
- Messaging built right in! Volunteers and staff sign into one system—iCarol—to handle calls for your agencies, calls for the Lifeline, and even chats for the Lifeline, or your own chats or texts. Read more here.
- A live risk assessment gauge, developed by the Lifeline for iCarol, calculates suicide risk in real-time, and provides instructions on the next steps with each risk level. Learn more about this tool.
- Intelligently designed call report forms allow for different ‘paths’ for your call takers. Example: If the call is a Lifeline call, a set of questions appears appropriate for that. Or, if the call is for a different program your agency takes calls for, have a different set of questions pop up.
- Worried that your workers aren’t following certain protocols for imminent risk callers? Take what is described above a step further to make the response(s) required or not. This reduces error, as well as can provide crucial guidance about next steps for the call taker in tense situations.
- Help your workers to provide referrals to community resources, designed in a very easy-to-use interface, even for a worker who is only there a few hours a week can use.
- Provide staff feedback—right in iCarol—to the call taker. This feedback can be private, or visible to all. Perhaps they did not follow a certain protocol of the Lifeline, or another program appropriately. We give you the industry’s best way to provide them this feedback. It alerts them when they log in, to read their feedback, and then tracks it when they do!
- Legal lock of call reports: Did something happen on an interaction that may be subpoenaed or looked into more? You can put a legal lock on it to ensure that no one, even the administrative users in your system, can make changes to it.
Hands down, iCarol is the best solution to support your work with the Lifeline, or other programs.
Want to learn more? Start a free trial or contact me.
Last week we shared information with you about “The Listeners,” a new documentary film that goes inside the work of suicide prevention helplines and the listeners who work there.
My hometown is one of the locations hosting a screening in the coming weeks, and my local paper published this article about the upcoming screening, the film itself, and the work of the local helpline (where I used to work!) which is a program of the Mental Health Association of Frederick County in Maryland. In fact, this showing is at capacity, having sold out all available tickets.
The article provides information about the services of the helpline in Frederick, Maryland and highlights the tough but valuable work they do. The publication also interviewed Robert Hurst, the director of the film, and he shares his thoughts on the work of the service where he filmed the documentary. He even participated in the volunteer training so he could get a first-hand feeling of what the volunteers go through, and he shares his feelings and experiences on that process.
A final thing to note about the newspaper article is that the author identifies herself as a suicide attempt survivor with lived experience, and shares her thoughts and comments on helpline services. She had valuable insight to provide that is not only interesting and adds a unique and important perspective to the topic, but may be worth sharing with the listeners at your own helpline.
The screening and local media attend around will undoubtedly lead to increased awareness of the hotline’s services, and integrated fundraising both at the screening and online associated with it, will likely lead to a donation boost as well. I’m excited to attend our local screening of “The Listeners” tomorrow and I’ll be sure to share my thoughts after.
UPDATE: The film was awesome and very well-received by the sold out audience of community supporters, mental health advocates, and helpline staff and volunteers. I can’t wait to share my thoughts — stay tuned!
According to Larry C. Johnson’s Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising, few non-profit organizations see their donors as investors. Often times a non-profit will focus on events where donors get some kind of premium for their one-time donation. Johnson ask us to re-imagine this — to move from a transactional construct to one that is more relational. When we ask people to give, we are inviting them to partner with us, to share in our vision and support our mission and programmatic goals. Before any event we should be asking: Does the event fit in with our mission? Is it worth the time, volunteer and staff effort, and upfront costs? How will we continue to engage our donors afterward? Regardless of the event, be it outreach or fundraising focused, it’s helpful to have a donor management system in place beforehand, to capture data and continue engagement post-event.
My center, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, has held multiple fundraising and outreach events — a concert with an out of town performer who’d played previous benefits for our local NAMI chapter; a semicolon tattoo event — almost 100 people got permanent ink of henna tattoos that evening; hosting the film “The Mask You Live In”, a documentary about the risks of toxic masculinity, at our local art house theater; and a golf tournament this summer.
We have learned that the best fundraisers are the ones with the lowest initial overhead and the least amount of logistical work!
We have learned to not be too attached to dollar amounts, but to see these events first and foremost as outreach and volunteer engagement/recruitment opportunities. The concert required the most work and capital outlay, and we just broke even financially. We saw it as an overall success as the press surrounding the event did a lot to raise awareness of our service, and bring more prospective volunteers through our doors. The tattoo and film fundraisers were fairly easy to stage, cost relatively little up front and raised decent money between them. Finally, our golf fundraiser was hosted and staged by a person who had lost a family member to suicide some years prior and approached us with the offer.
We also held an outreach event at a local arts festival where we created “listening stations” (booths with hard wired phones inside and out). One trained volunteer inside each booth played a caller with a thought provoking but non-suicidal/ on-super acute crisis story to tell. We asked participants to pick up the phone and simply listen, while our volunteers, in role, shared their stories. The volunteer then thanked the participant for listening.
With the exception of the concert, our goal with each of these events is to have them be, if possible, “The First Annual…” which lowers the logistical bar for us for next year, and starts to build culture, community and history around each event, both within our shop and in our larger community.
Get creative! Ask your volunteers, staff, and local community members for ideas that fit with your mission! Most of all, have fun with it. Treat your volunteers, staff, and participants well, make the most of community engagement opportunities presented, and keep up the dialogue with all of your new and existing partners/ investors! If you are considering a semicolon tattoo event, keep in mind that an organization called Project Semicolon has trademarked some of the associated imagery and verbiage. We reached out to them and got permission in writing before moving forward with the event.
Guest blogger John Reusser is Director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, and serves on the Board of Directors for CONTACT USA. John is also a member of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention, a board member of the Livewilder Foundation, and Certified ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) Trainer and a licensed Designated Examiner.
Ontario Online and Text Crisis Services program (ONTX) recently marked a year of service to their communities, and shared data with constituents in their latest newsletter. In the report they describe response to the program as “overwhelmingly positive” while allowing contact with many individuals who otherwise would not have reached out for help.
Some key findings:
- Total chats and texts: 8,921
- 75% of visitors were under 24 years old, while that same demographic makes up a very small portion of their phone callers
- Over 200 specialists trained to take chats and texts
- They receive an average of 5 suicide-related contacts each time the service is open
- More than half of visitors said that in the absence of an online emotional support service like ONTX, they would not have spoken to anyone about their problem
For a full look at the released findings click here, or read a summary here. Want future updates from ONTX and other services of DC Ontario? Be sure to sign up for Distress and Crisis Ontario’s newsletter by emailing your request to .
We’re thrilled by the success of our friends at ONTX, though it comes as no surprise to us that they’ve had this response. The caring people at the Distress and Crisis Ontario have been providing listening support and crisis intervention to Ontario for nearly 50 years. Their latest step to make their services available in a way that works for everyone in need demonstrates their commitment to helping people and saving lives.
Like so many others throughout the US and the rest of the world, we’re heartbroken over the events that played out early Sunday morning in Orlando. Yet another city’s name has become synonymous with tragedy.
Violence inflicted upon any person or group of people is horrific regardless of the circumstances, location in the world, or nature of the attack. The shooting in Orlando left us saddened because for many who identify as LGBTQIA, clubs and bars like Pulse make up part of the fabric of the LGBT community along with outreach centers and other friendly gathering places. For those who don’t find acceptance at home, these spaces are sanctuaries and the people in them become like family. This act of violence was carried out during Pride Month when members of the LGBT community and their allies are celebrating together.
These events are a sobering reminder that even in times of sweeping progress for LGBT causes and more visibility than ever, danger still exists and for some communities it is an epidemic. The threat of violence makes a huge impact on the mental health and well-being of LGBT people, and losses to suicide and suicide attempt rates continue to be higher among LGBT populations than those of non-LGBT counterparts.
Let us not allow intolerance and violence towards one group spawn persecution of another. Let us all try every day to bring education and awareness to those who may fear the unfamiliar and unknown. Whether that is fear of a sexuality, gender, religion, culture, race, ethnicity, nationality, or other qualities they may find foreign to their own experience. Ignorance, fear, or intolerance can morph and grow into hatred and violence when fed and nurtured. Knowledge and education can bolster tolerance and acceptance. Most importantly, let’s all love and support one another and recognize that when we all stand together in peace and solidarity, we stand stronger.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.— Martin Luther King, Jr.
To the LGBT and other helplines around the world, thank you for being the light that drives out darkness for so many people.
For emotional support, information and referral, educational materials, and other ways you can support and help the LGBTQIA community, please explore the resources below.
The Trevor Project
Switchboard LGBT Helpline
Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Lesbian & Gay Switchboard
Gay Switchboard Ireland
It Gets Better Project
Human Rights Campaign
Have a resource to add to this list? Leave us a comment below!