Photo courtesy of Rich Niewiroski Jr.
In late June, officials approved a $76 million package to implement the long-debated suicide prevention nets on the Golden Gate bridge. It will still be at least three years before the nets are fully installed, but the funding approval clears a huge hurdle in the process.
Opponents of the net feel this is an inappropriate or even wasteful use of funds, stating that suicidal individuals will simply go elsewhere to take their lives or find another method. Those working in the suicide prevention industry know this isn’t true. By installing a barrier we remove access to means considered to be high lethality; methods for taking one’s life that allow very little room for intervention and possibility of survival. Bridges without a barrier allow people to take an impulsive action on their suicidal thoughts. Interviews with survivors and other studies have found that these barriers do not simply drive a person to another method. Instead it removes access to that single chosen highly lethal method and allows for more time for the person to get help.
We applaud this latest development in bringing a barrier to the Golden Gate bridge. To read more about the barrier and the reasons why these barriers work, check out these sources:
The Bridge Rail Foundation
Golden Gate barrier FAQ
Suicides Mounting, Golden Gate Looks to Add a Safety Net
Funding for Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier approved
Donna and Eliisa recently attended the Pre-Conference symposium at the 28th National Council on Problem Gambling Conference in Orlando, FL at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. Members of our team attend conferences like this to ensure that we are on the cutting edge of the issues, challenges and experiences that helplines face.
The Florida Gambling Affiliate hosted the event. We’re happy to have just welcomed them to the iCarol family, as they went live on iCarol July 1st with phone, text and chat. One staff member said “iCarol has made my life much easier.” We love that feedback! It’s always great to hear that folks are finding their volunteer experience made easier or more enjoyable by using iCarol.
Brian Kongsvik is the Helpline Director and he did an excellent presentation on how his helpline works and the outcomes and follow up research of those that had contacted their helpline services. He reported that in his center, 79% indicated they had either stopped or decreased gambling since contacting their helpline services.
The breakout sessions gave us lots of great insight and presentations from a spectrum of sources. Donna from iCarol gave a presentation on chat and texting as well as the importance of integrated technologies. Anyone who has ever managed a helpline knows how easy it is to fall into the trap of using quick technology fixes to get by day by day. At the surface, you think it doesn’t cost you anything to do a quick update on a computer here and there, or utilize someone’s expertise to add a field into a form quickly, but soon you find yourself only able to do the report you need on one computer in the office and using a multi-step process utilizing many people every month just to do your routine monthly reports. The group was actively engaged, and for some the story of this vicious cycle hit a little too close to home! Integrated technologies like iCarol can help stop this cycle.
Bensinger, Dupont & Associates did a demo of iCarol’s live chat feature, which they use for several problem gambling live chat sites around the country. They noted they like the customizable programming to fit their unique needs.
Peer support networks and websites that people are accessing for help with problem gambling, other than calling, texting, and live chatting into helpline services, were discussed. Experts include GamTalk (Canada) and Gambling Therapy (UK). Both offer services run by licensed mental health professionals, with peer support from those in recovery from gambling addiction. These organizations offer a community (often anonymously) whereby they can build support communities around them.
The group also discussed the decrease of phone calls across the country to problem gambling helplines in the US. Among all the addictions, it was noted that those with a gambling addiction have the highest completed suicide rate among any other addiction. As such, those attending the pre-conference were fortunate to be given an opportunity to be trained in QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer). Best practices in advertising were shared, with some noting that billboards near casinos work well.
Unfortunately some heavy rain moved the welcome reception sponsored by the Seminole Tribe of Florida indoors instead of outside by the gorgeous pool area, but it didn’t detract the crowd or the fun. We had such a great time meeting so many of you from the various NCPG affiliates and gambling helplines. And of course to the new friends we made if you want to learn more about iCarol we’d love to hear from you. Give us a call,
or join an upcoming webinar to learn more about us and our features.
June is Pride Month, and we at iCarol are proud to join the celebration. Many of the helplines using iCarol software serve the LGBT community and we admire and support the work they are doing.
Recently I watched the HBO original film “The Normal Heart.” The film was adapted from a play of the same name that was written by activist and playwright Larry Kramer. The play, and film, chronicle the emergence of AIDS and creation of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City in the early 1980’s, founded by Kramer and others. In the somewhat autobiographical play, Ned Weeks (a character based on Larry Kramer), is a passionate but abrasive advocate for increased attention and funding for research towards a new and unnamed illness which we now all know would be the AIDS epidemic.
In the film the illness is rapidly spreading among the gay community and Weeks is losing one friend after another to the mysterious disease. And while people are getting sick all around him, all suffering from similar symptoms and always ending with the same tragic outcome, no one seems to care. The necessary research isn’t receiving sufficient funding, politicians turn a blind eye, and some hospital staff even refuse to go in the rooms of those with the disease. In one particularly heartbreaking scene, a young man dies and a funeral home refuses to handle his body, instead putting him in a trash bag and making the young man’s mother and partner pay them to handle his remains in such a dehumanizing way.
In another scene, founding members of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis are organizing their office space when a young woman comes in, grief stricken by the recent loss of her friend. The character of Tommy Boatwright, (played wonderfully by Jim Parsons who steals the show in many scenes) comforts her. She says she wants to do something to help and he responds, “We need a hotline director.” The character of Tommy is based on the real-life person Rodger McFarlane, who first answered that hotline in his apartment and took 100 calls the first night it was open.
In the next scenes you see this small group fielding phone calls from people asking about the unnamed disease, its symptoms, the rumors surrounding its cause, and a number of other questions that the group admittedly had few answers to at the time. Their goal was to provide people with a place they could call to receive what little facts they had about the illness and also to receive access to social workers, legal help, health care, and more.
I thought to myself about how much things have changed in the over 30 years since this group first organized. HIV/AIDS is still a very real and dangerous illness, but thanks to the work of GMHC and others, it eventually stopped being ignored by decision makers and got the funding for research that it deserved. Research led to knowledge, and over time people were educated about how it spread and how to prevent it, and there have been incredible strides in the medicine and other treatments that greatly improve one’s ability to live with the disease. There’s no doubt that we still need activism and awareness and prevention and dollars for research, but things are much better than they were 30 years ago.
And look at how much has changed for LGBT helplines. When I saw the team of people in the movie answering phones and doing the best they could to help provide information and empathy, I smiled to myself and thought, “I wonder if any of them had any idea how much things would change for the LGBT community in the following decades.” LGBT helplines started with the purpose of helping people survive this illness which no one knew anything about. The LGBT helpline has evolved so much over the years. We still have many wonderful helplines doing work on HIV/AIDS education and prevention. But helplines now also focus on bullying, discrimination, suicide prevention, and legal rights, including the right to be married. Did any of the founding fathers of the GMHC ever imagine there would be a day where so many countries would recognize same-sex marriage, including many states in the US? Where gay characters, gay couples and their children, feature prominently on TV shows and movies and we no longer even take note of this, because these lives, as they should be, are no longer seen by most as abnormal or “other”? Did they even dare dream of such things at a time when most struggled to come out, and many were dying and no one even seemed to care?
We appreciate the great work of so many LGBT helplines who serve to help people who are struggling and feeling alone, offering hope to youth who are bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity, helping them find reasons for living when times are so hard that they feel they can’t go on. All the problems are not solved and our society still has a way to go before full equality is realized. But “The Normal Heart” serves as a reminder that times were once so dark and so scary, while now they are filled with the promise of hope and love and acceptance.
We’re gearing up for the American Association of Suicidology’s 47th Annual Conference in Los Angeles! We’re looking forward to seeing so many of our friends and colleagues there; it’s always a great chance to catch up with everyone in the helpline and suicide prevention industry.
This year iCarol is particularly excited to present a special lunch session on Friday April 11th. Our workshop is
With every passing year, the use of new channels to seek help continues to expand. Join this session to help your crisis center evaluate these channels, determine your next steps and plan your technology choices to adapt to the evolving Online Emotional Support (OES) landscape. You’ll hear from your peers and technology experts about the best way to get started serving people interactively using the electronically written, rather than the spoken word.
Chat, Texting, Mobile and Social: A look at today and the future of online emotional support with iCarol.
Adding new channels by which your clients can reach you can be intimidating and may leave you with a lot of questions. We hope to answer the questions you may have about these new technologies and give you confidence to embark on this new and exciting path with the tools iCarol has developed. We hope you’ll join us for this session at AAS! Not attending the conference but still want to learn more about our Online Emotional Support capabilities? Sign up for a webinar!
The National Association of Crisis Center Directors (NASCOD) recently announced an exciting collaboration with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. These two leading authorities in the helpline industry will collaborate on the delivery of monthly Webinars and Peer Support calls. The collaboration allows both agencies to highlight their strengths, share vital information across a larger network of crisis agencies and maximize training opportunities with ease and convenience for the busy helpline and suicide prevention professional.
This collaboration presents two major benefits to participants:
NASCOD Members will be invited to the Lifeline Evaluation Webinar Series which will focus on research supporting crisis and suicide intervention best practices
NASCOD will coordinate and present a series of peer support calls that will be shared with the Suicide Lifeline Network
If you’re not yet a member of NASCOD we highly recommend you consider becoming a member. NASCOD provides great resources to professionals at crisis lines, helplines, and suicide prevention lines. Regularly held Peer Support Calls allow crisis center directors to engage with one another and benefit from the experience of other directors on a number of pertinent topics. NASCOD also holds an annual conference that helps directors hone in on management and leadership skills, network with other helpline professionals, and learn more about specific topics, issues, and challenges in the helpline industry. Many NASCOD members use iCarol helpline management software and so this is one more area in which members can share knowledge and information with one another, for example how they are using iCarol features such as texting/SMS, chat, statistics, and resources to their advantage.
With the announcement of this partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline it’s an excellent time to become a NASCOD member and take advantage of this opportunity to participate in the exchange of ideas and experiences between these two important leaders in the crisis helpline industry.