113Online customer case using the Livecom Chat
Stichting 113Online offers people with suicidal thoughts and/or behaviour, those involved and surviving relatives the opportunity to make contact with professional therapists and carefully trained volunteers via chat, e-mail or phone. This independent and autonomous care provider, founded in 2009, still receives subsidies from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The plan is that the foundation will be financed by care insurers.
Chat is a logical communication channel for platforms such as 113Online, says web coordinator Anouk Romers.
‘Talking on the phone doesn’t feel anonymous enough for everyone. Chatting is really accessible: total anonymity and the distance the channel offers are appealing to a large part of our target group. In addition, it’s easier to conduct an unnoticed chat conversation than talking on the phone. ’ The first months 113Online used a different chat application, says Romers. ‘That didn’t work. It was difficult to keep statistics, calls were patched through to the wrong person and, most importantly: sessions were regularly broken off or couldn’t be answered. This led to unrest and worries with the volunteers and professionals. We conduct long, tough conversations about life and death; we can’t afford to lose the connection.’
113Online conducts three types of chat session. First of all, there are the crisis-chats, where volunteers offer a sympathetic ear to people with suicidal thoughts and/if behaviour in particular, and also to those involved and surviving relatives.
Secondly, there are the planned therapy-chats of an hour max, where someone examines what s/he wants to accomplish and what it takes to do that together with one of the six 113online psychologists.
And finally, there are the advice-chats, with a psychologist as well.
When the foundation started working with Livecom 6G Chat in May 2010, 113Online was coming from a crisis situation where there were more failures than successes. ‘The application of Livecom was a relief,’ says Romers. ‘The younger users especially think that chat is generally user-friendly. They are able to work with it right away.’
The accessibility and total anonymity of the channel give a voice to people who often have to overcome huge barriers before being able to tell their story. ‘We don’t ask for any personal data from people coming to our chat.
We don’t need any information from people, we don’t do intakes. You click the button and you’re chatting. A smaller group prefers to communicate via e-mail. That gives you some more time to answer.
Advantages of the chat are direct contact, quick responses, and anonymity.’
One chatter said the following (direct quote): ‘My world has opened because I could share things, I couldn’t tell anyone. That’s because your services are truly anonymous, yet at the same easily accessible – very accessible. At certain times, the chats have pulled me out of a downward spiral; kind of like getting back on track.’
Another chatter said (direct quote), in an answer to my question what chat has brought him: ‘Some peace and quiet in my head… because I write it down there it seems to create some room in my head.’
Chat sessions are conducted more often compared to the approximately 120 e-mails with help or therapy questions per month. The people of 113Online accept between 450 to 800 crisis-chat requests a month.
‘We have to really step up our efforts around the holidays and after, for example, a lot of media attention following the suicide of a famous person,’ says Romers.
‘We try to limit the chat sessions to one hour per person, but we don’t always manage that: for some people it’s the first time that they’re vocalizing their suicidal thoughts and feelings, and that takes time. Others are really panicky or chat under the influence of alcohol or pills which slows down their response capacity’
75 to 170 therapy and advice-chat sessions are conducted on a monthly basis as well.
Older employees especially thought chat a bit scary. Romers: ‘Some people feel that the internet and chatting are cold. Or they’re afraid that they won’t be able to recognize certain nuances and emotions during a chat.
But you see a shift the more they work with the application. Smiley faces in the chat make the conversation more human and it’s easy to read between the lines.
Nowadays, all employees see the system as fast and effective. Chatters often tell them how much they appreciate being able to express their feelings via chat.’ Romers herself is especially satisfied about the statistics which are easily to access and analyse thanks to the system. Each chat session is linked to a label and an evaluation form.
Omdat the chat channel is so important to 113Online, Romers and her colleagues often discuss what could be improved. It would be ideal, for example, if other aid organisations would redirect their incoming chat sessions about suicide to 113Online.
Romers feels that a queuing functionality on the website would be a welcome addition as well. Our peers might be interested in talking to each other in a group chat… Livecom takes our wishes seriously. We’re talking about the possibilities. Livecom is a flexible company; that much is clear.’
Starting this year, 113Online will be using Livecom’s e-mail module. ‘We’re now still working with Microsoft Outlook,’ says Romers. ‘We have to send and answer everything by hand. Besides, halve of the e-mails comes in via the website. ’ Soon, 113Online is able to label every e-mail and answer it with the help of the same platform as Livecom 6G Chat. Romers: ‘We’re really looking forward to that. We’re using so many different systems right now; one system will give us more peace.’