Lesson # 6 – Stress-Free Hosting

Here are some tips that have helped hosts keep stress to a minimum. They are not in order of importance; each person will place different values on the various suggestions.

  1. Have a support system in place. This can be online (hosts, chatters, friends) or offline (family, friends).
  2. Decompress with a host after a really tough time hosting. Talk to them, vent, get your feelings and frustrations out. It can be by privately messaging them or posting to the Facebook page.
  3. Keep private chats (pcs) to a minimum. These seems to be the most stressful part of hosting to many.
  4. Talk to other hosts for feedback, ideas, explanations, question, etc. Use the hosts as a resource, too.
  5. Know your limitations and triggers. If you can’t handle something, tell the chatter. If there is another host present let them handle it. If there is no other host present see if a chatter can assist the individual in need.
  6. Don’t host when you are under the weather, either mentally or physically. Give yourself time to rest and heal.
  7. Take “mental health” days or time off from hosting when you are stressed.
  8. If you are hosting and the room becomes too stressful take a break.
  9. While we can always use hosts you have to be sure to limit your hours in the room. If you don’t you will burn out.
  10. Do something special for yourself after a tough hosting session. (Send Nancy the bill!)
  11. Leave when you are planning to. The room will survive without you.
  12. Set boundaries and limits.
  13. Host earlier in the day for less stressful rooms. Generally speaking, as the day goes on there are more chatters and the room gets crazier.
  14. Be prepared. Take notes so you will recall facts about the chatters and be familiar with situations.
  15. Discriminate on who and how many people you give your email or messenger name to. You don’t want to be on call 24/7.
  16. Do not allow yourself to be “on call” 24/7 via ims, emails, etc. When you host, you host. When you are off duty, you’re off duty. You need to separate your hosting from your personal life. To remain healthy you need a balance.
  17. Discuss your hosting job (not the details of the chatters or their stories) with family and friends so they will be supportive.
  18. Refer crisis chatters to the crisis numbers and the many resources we have. We are not professionals; let those who are educated and trained in mental health treat the chatters. You will be helping yourself and the chatter.
  19. Realize that you are NOT responsible for what any person does. They control their actions. You are providing a great service by listening to them but all you can do is listen and talk. They have to take action to help themselves.
  20. Always explain the reason for the rule; if you “tell” them they can interpret it as you ordering them. Refer to the “rules” as “guidelines.” It’s softer sounding.
  21. Don’t get personally involved with chatters. If that happens too often you will burn out.
  22. DON’T react. Think before you speak.
  23. Don’t take anything a chatter says personally. It’s the depression they are angry at, NOT you.
  24. Treat the chatters with great respect and kindness. Understand they are going through a very difficult time and struggling, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the room.
  25. Show empathy and compassion.
  26. When you speak to chatters always be positive, supportive, let them know you care, give them hope.
  27. Never refer to age or say anything about being a teen to a teenager with depression. They are very sensitive about that.
  28. Have lots of Xanax available (Thanks, Addy!)

Lesson #5 – Kinder/Gentler Hosting

1. PUT YOURSELF IN THE PERSON’S SHOES. It’s their pain and real to them. Someone whose boyfriend broke up with them is suffering a loss that can be as painful to them as the loss of another person whose friend just died. Don’t evaluate whether they should or shouldn’t be in that much pain because this assessment will always be based on you, your life, your experiences, your personality, your coping abilities. You will be JUDGING them.

What is important is to ACCEPT and VALIDATE their pain.

2. We’ve all had or will have this experience: A chatter comes in and describes a myriad of problems. We immediately see a half dozen solutions and share them. Next day the chatter comes back and starts venting, as if we never spoke to them or offered any paths to healing. The scenario repeats itself. It seems like they are refusing to help themselves and they just want attention.

We get frustrated, lose patience, don’t want to work with the person anymore.

What we have to realize is that ALL PEOPLE WANT TO HELP THEMSELVES. Acting on their behalf might not happen at this time, or ever, because:

  • They might NOT BE ABLE to help themselves. For example, there are illnesses where the person always sees him or herself as a victim and doesn’t accept responsibility for his/her actions. Blame is always placed on others.  We should never form a negative opinion on someone who doesn’t seem to be taking steps forward because we are not knowledgeable about their medical conditions or other facts that can be holding the person back.
  • They might not be able to help themselves AT THIS POINT IN TIME. They might lack the intellectual skills, professional mental health assistance, economic resources, support, be disadvantaged, face opposition in adverse environments, etc. We are unaware of their limitations.
  • They might not “hear” what you are saying no matter how clearly you express it. The person might not be ready to hear it or may need to find it out for him/herself. We’ve all had situations where someone told us something repeatedly but it never sunk in. Then one day something happened. The light bulb went off and we saw exactly what everyone has been telling us for so long. We weren’t ready before. Also, when we discover a solution for ourselves it has greater impact and more meaning.
  • Sometimes the answers are buried under many layers. Many have deep seated problems that cannot be readily addressed. It would take years of therapy to dig down to the roots. This is the job of the professional, not the host.
  • You may not know that something you said helped or impacted a chatter. One day I was talking to a suicidal chatter and thought I didn’t get through to her. I was disappointed. The next day the chatter came back and said, “Thank you, Magic, you saved my life.” So, you never know.
  • Don’t underestimate LISTENING. We often feel we have to say something or else we aren’t helping. Nothing is further from the truth. Allowing the person to vent, to know someone cares and that they aren’t alone can be extremely helpful, maybe more so than talking approaches. Listening is another way to supporting chatters.

3. TREAT PEOPLE WITH RESPECT, including trolls (Someone who comes into the room with the objective of disrupting the room.). Here’s an example of a successful approach that I’ve used with trolls. I bring the troll into pc so they won’t upset the rest of the chatters or be distracted. I don’t have any saved pcs so this is a re-enactment of what I have say.

(((((Troll))))) Hi, how are you? I’d like to welcome you to our room.

This room provides support for those who suffer from depression and I’d like to see you receive that same support.

Looks like there’s a problem here and I’m sure that it’s because you’re not aware of the philosophies of this room and how it works.

(I then explain the particular guideline(s) he/she broke and the reasons for it. I don’t say: “You broke a guideline!” rather, “Many of our members have said that background colors hurt their eyes and cause migraines so we made a rule that background colors are not allowed out of respect and concern for them.” I then continue to explain how all the guidelines are designed to respect and provide a safe room for all members, including that person. I finish by suggesting that he/she read the guidelines.)

About 90% of the times the person is responsive and I invite them back onto the floor. In this 90% are people that are not real trolls, but are angry or that are trolls but are floored that I treated them with respect. This latter group will then leave without incident. The last 10% are hardcore trolls and I’ve found if I keep talking and talking and talking to them they get tired of listening and leave on their own. If nothing can be done to stop the troll from disrupting the room, then it’s time to kick the person out.

I’d like to point out a few things here. First, I know that the person did something inappropriate and/or is a troll. I never mention that fact because if I say that it will be perceived as an attack and I will have lost before I even begin. They will react defensively.

I make like I know nothing, actually at times I play dumb. However, I know exactly what I am doing and I am in control at all times. I try to be:

  • Friendly – Hi, how are you? Welcome to our room. I’d like you to receive that same support.
  • Positive – I’m assuming the person will listen and hear what I’m saying…and it does happen that way most of the time.
  • Give the person the benefit of the doubt – even, if I’m 99% sure he’s a troll – …problem…I’m sure that’s because you’re not aware of the philosophies of the room.
  • Helpful – Provide explanations and refer them to the guidelines.

There are several important points that I want to make here:

  • When someone attacks the first human response is to attack back. We should take a deep breath and wait a second. DO NOT REACT. Attacking brings you to the trolls’ level and will not help you achieve your goal of providing a safe room. (Even if you boot the troll they can come back. A ban would then have to be considered.)
  • There is a reason for EVERY behavior. The person might not be aware of the guidelines; might be angry; might want attention, etc. You’ll never find out unless you talk to them calmly and with great respect.
  • You might think, “Gee, the guy comes in here to troll and I make like I know nothing and talk nicely to him. He’s going to think I’m a jerk and he put one over on me.” Does it really matter what he thinks? Or does it matter that you have safeguarded the room? As I said, by being friendly, positive, helpful and giving the person the benefit of the doubt I am orchestrating the pc. I am controlling the flow of the conversation. If you treat people kindly, they will respond kindly. If you attack someone, they will attack back. If they attack and you respond kindly, you will disarm them. So, the troll has not put anything over on me; instead I have put something over on the troll. I have got him to talk, to calm down, to think about his behavior, etc. I’m hoping that my behavior lets him see that this is a caring and supportive room. Instead of using my brawn (the boot button) I’ve used my brain. If the troll leaves on his/her own chances are he/she won’t return. If booted, the person will be angry and return to further disrupt the room. Always talk to the troll in pc so as not to embarrass him/her.

4. ALWAYS BE POSITIVE AND SUPPORTING, especially in the beginning. First impressions have a lasting impact…but don’t stop there!

“Welcome to the chat room”

“Glad you came.”

“Good to see you.”

“Hi, how are you.”

“I’ve missed you.”

“It’s been a while, where have you been?”

You can still be positive and supportive even with an angry trollish person.

“You sound very angry.” This let’s them know that I’ve heard what they are saying and I am not being judgmental.

It’s usually followed by “Yes, I am…” and they tell me why. If they stop there I ask “What’s making you so angry?” Now they see me as an interested party and they usually unload their anger.

When they vent I tell them “You have reason to be angry.” I have now validated their feelings. They feel I understand and are not alone. I have now set the foundation for a supportive relationship.

When they describe their anger I let them (if this is in pc which it usually is) get it out anyway they can. They’ve had it bottled up (which was the cause of their trollish behavior) and when it comes out it’s like a volcano erupting. They yell, they curse, they say many nasty things. I LISTEN QUIETLY. I let the lava flow.

It’s very important to realize that the chatter is NOT directing his anger at me although it can be hard to distinguish that if he curses/yells at me. I could turn around and say “I’m not going to take that crap; you can’t abuse me like that” however, I don’t because I know their anger is aimed at the depression, at an event or at some hurt that I had no part of. When I signed on to become a host I was agreeing to support people. Support takes many forms. In this case it is being a sounding board till the person gets it off their chest. Afterwards, they will be calmer, usually apologize and will be able to talk in a more appropriate way. The person that “abused” me the most is one of the people I am now closest with.

5. ALWAYS EXPLAIN a guideline. Try not to make the request come out as an order.

Instead of: “There’s no cursing allowed” or “Watch your language!”

Try: “We have young chatters in the room so have to be careful of what we say.”
Instead of: “Change the topic!”
Try: “I’ve received several whispers saying that this topic is triggering and upsetting them.”

Instead of: “Stop using uppercase.”

Try: “Uppercase is considered yelling in this room. Can you please use lower case?”
In all these instances, the second wording takes the perception of you being a policeman/power hungry person out of the picture and portrays you as a concerned member of the chat room respectful of everyone present.

6. ALWAYS REMEMBER THE POPULATION WE ARE SERVING: those suffering from depression. Depressed individuals can be in pain, frustrated, angry, overtired, have no patience, don’t care, feel like things are out of their control, don’t want to live, etc.

While they should be responsible for their actions we also should show extra doses of compassion and be more patient with them, more understanding and cut them some slack.

Society tells those with mental illness that they are “crazy,” “lazy,””deviant.” They’re reprimanded for their illness and behavior offline; let’s try not to scold them for depression-induced behavior. They come here seeking help; many times they don’t have where to turn. Let’s treat them as adults and give show them the understanding they don’t receive from the ignorant.

If we saw a Tourettes Syndrome child continuously cursing we wouldn’t punish them because it is their illness causing that behavior. Depression causes inappropriate behavior, too.

One way to be compassionate to our members and still keep the room safe is by speaking to the offending chatter in pc.

7. First, a person is HURT. If they don’t deal with the hurt it turns to ANGER. If they don’t deal with the anger and internalize it, they take it out on themselves and it can turn into DEPRESSION. If they don’t deal with the anger and externalize it they may take it out on others by yelling, hitting or physically hurting others.

It might help to think of an angry chatter as a human being WHO IS HURT. If you can help him/her isolate the reason for the hurt you will be beginning a healing process.

8. WAIT FOR A PROBLEM TO OCCUR before intervening. The cliché, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” applies here.

  • If you intervene when there is no problem you are increasing the risk for confrontation.
  • The anticipated problem might never occur. Don’t throw a lit match into a pile of dry wood
  • If a problem occurs the room might handle it. Intervention will be more effective if it comes from their fellow chatters as opposed to a host.
  • If a problem occurs that the room can’t handle then it’s time to act.
  • There are cases where experience will tell you that a volatile situation will occur if you don’t intercede. Only then should you take action before trouble begins.

9. Be aware of your WORDING. Words can make a person smile. Words can make a person cry. Words can calm. Words can infuriate. Words can motivate. Words can discourage. Words can make a person sad. Words can make a person feel great.

As a host you are looked up to and respected. YOUR words are listened to more closely because you are a host. You carry great power but with that comes great responsibility.

Always THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. I often wonder how I would feel if I were the recipient of some of my wording.  Would they be receptive? Would it hurt him? Help him? Or if I should even speak because many times it’s more important to listen.

10. Do not inject your personal opinions when you host. You can share facts, paint both sides of a picture but you should remain neutral and objective.

For example, a pregnant teen comes in and wants to know if she should have an abortion. It is not appropriate for a host to give their personal opinion. She should not be told to keep the baby; she should not be told to abort the baby.

She should be:

  • Given resources for family planning and abortion advocacy so she can explore both sides of the issue.
  • Told to discuss this with her husband/boyfriend and family.
  • Told to consult with her gynecologist/obstetrician or medical doctor.
  • Told to speak to her therapist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
  • Told that we will support her in whatever decision she makes.

Hosting is not about preaching our personal beliefs. It is about respecting a chatter enough to allow him/her to make his/her own decisions and supporting them afterwards. They are the only ones who will lives with these decisions. What might be good for you could very well be wrong for them.

Also, if you tell the person to do one thing and they do the other, do you think they’d feel comfortable talking to you again? Do you think they’d feel supported?

Those suffering from depression receive a barrage of negative comments. They’re told that they are crazy, lazy, imagining things, not trying hard enough, to just snap out of it, etc. The depression already causes a lot of pain but to hear these barbs spoken by family, friends, acquaintances, associates and loved ones adds insult to injury.

We know what they are feeling/going through is real because we’ve all experienced it. Share this with the chatters. Let them know that they aren’t the only ones who experience these feelings or have these thoughts; that their feelings are real; that they are normal people who are struggling with issues; that they are trying but the depression saps their motivation, etc.

Let them know that their feelings are normal for those suffering from depression and validate them.

“Depression is not a flaw in character; it’s a flaw in chemistry.”
“You are a normal person who is struggling with some real issues.”
“You are not valued any less because of the depression.”
“It is the depression making you feel that way. It’s not you.”
“You have good reason to be angry.”
“I can see why you are upset.”
“That must have been very painful.”

12. Make believe you don’t have administrative powers. What would you do to keep order in the room? Probably talk more.

The point here is that sometimes we are too quick to boot when we have other options available. Kicking a person out is humiliating, can anger the individual and will not help their depression. It should be used as a last resort, when other alternatives have failed and all other means have been exhausted.

13. Always refrain from embarrassing a chatter. Be sensitive to the individual’s feelings. If there is anything that might embarrass a chatter whisper or pc with that person. It might be very difficult for the person to hear privately or the person might be more receptive but a public announcement can be humiliating. Again, be careful with the wording.

14. I can’t stress the importance of these three words: RULES ARE GUIDELINES. According to the dictionary a guidelines is “a lightly marked line used as a guide…” and a guide is “to assist (a person) to travel through, or reach a destination in, an area in which he does not know the way, as by accompanying him or giving him directions.”

In other words, the guidelines serve to assist and inform chatters about the ways and norms of our room so that can become a contributing part and benefit from it. When we take the guidelines literally and beat the chatters over the head with them they lose their original purpose. We are no longer assisting, but hurting. The guidelines were created for the safety and respect of all members. When neither of those two areas is compromised there is no need to refer to the guidelines.

Also, bear in mind that the chatters do a very good job governing the room themselves. Allow them to be the first line of defense. Compliance is greater if the request comes from a peer.

15. Do not look at yourself as an enforcer of guidelines. Instead view yourself as a friend/supporter/disseminator of information. If you host with the latter view you will command the respect of the room and find problems rarely occur. There will be very little need to enforce the guidelines.

Lesson #4 – Writing Reports

Hosts should send a room report to the Facebook page after hosting only if there is a problem in the room that other hosts should know about or if a chatter is in need.

Please keep the following in mind when writing reports.

1. Keep them brief and to the point. Detailed reports are great for your own records, but try to distill the information down to the essentials that you know other hosts need to know. The Facebook page can generate a lot of host reports and reading it all can be very time consuming. While there are times that long posts are necessary, as a rule, try to keep posts as short as possible. Reports of trouble, suicidal chatters, nickname changes and bans are examples of essentials. Chatter’s meds and treatment plans, what things they are feeling down about and their family relationships are all examples of comments that are not needed in reports. Keep this sort of information in your personal notes to refresh your memory if you desire, but do not include them in reports.

2.  Do not include any personal information about our chatters. Generally the things you were told in confidence, just like in a therapy situation, should be kept between you and the chatter. The only exception to this rule is if you feel a person is suicidal or in trouble or that in some way other hosts can help. Even if the chatter did not explicitly ask for confidentiality it should be kept private. Would you want parts of your conversation with a friend broadcast to a group of 20+ other people? Please respect chatters’ privacy. If a chatter finds out that you relayed parts of your conversation with him/her to others it will erode his/her trust in you and with hosts, in general. While we are not professionals, we try to conduct ourselves with professional standards.

YES: Mary is suicidal (or having a difficult time); please give her some extra time if you see her.

NO: Mary was sexually abused by her father when she was younger and is having flashbacks and difficulty dealing with them. She has self injured herself, cutting her arm up. She also has suicidal thoughts and is stockpiling pills.

NOTE: The “YES” example is keeping Mary’s confidentiality, keeping the post short, yet it lets all hosts know that Mary could use extra attention, which is the point of the host note. If Mary chooses to share the “NO” example information with someone else then she will tell them. It should come from the chatter, not a host.
Here is a copy and paste of how Aleks handled a situation regarding confidentiality. “A while ago I got PC by a chatter. The chatter “complained” about something. I told the chatter that there wasn’t anything I could do with that thing, but that I could give the message to somebody who could. And I asked if I could copy the PC. The chatter said it was ok, as long as I didn’t mention any names. So I replaced the username with ***, and sent it to Nancy. I told her about the situation first, and added the messages.” This was a perfect way to handle it.

3.  Make each item a separate paragraph. This helps the person reading the report quickly scan the contents.

4.  Was “Keep the reports brief.” mentioned? Keep the reports as short as possible without sacrificing the inclusion of vital information.

Building Trust Through Confidentiality

Posted by Todd Smith

Pssst. Can you keep a secret? How do you react when you hear these words uttered in a hushed tone? Do you feel important that you are about to be trusted with confidential information, or do you wonder if it’s gossip that you don’t want to hear?

In addition to ensuring that you don’t participate in matters that don’t concern you, it’s even more important to keep any confidence that you have been entrusted with by someone else. You can’t expect to advance personally or professionally if you betray the trust someone has placed in you.

Today’s lesson may prick your conscience; however, my hope is that you will see the immense value in learning the importance of keeping things confidential that should be private and secret.

The Link Between Trust and Confidentiality
When you earn the reputation of someone who can be relied on, you command the respect and trust of people around you and build deeper friendships. In business, trustworthy people are more likely to sell more products, built a larger customer base, receive more raises, and enjoy earlier promotions.

One of the most common, telltale signs of someone who cannot be trusted with confidential information is the person who is says, “So-and-so told me this in confidence, but I know you won’t say anything.”

While you may feel special that this person trusts you, what about the person whose information they promised not to divulge? Personally, I would think twice about sharing my own sensitive information with this person. In short, I would not trust someone who was telling me other people’s secrets.

Respecting and Keeping Confidences
Are you someone who can be trusted with private and confidential information? To gauge your trustworthiness in this area, ask yourself how likely you would be to share any of the following:

1. You are on a business trip and having some drinks afterhours. A colleague overindulges and ends up passing out in the lobby after a series of pretty funny antics. Do you share this story back at the office?

2. A partner decides to go his own way and leaves you hanging. You’ve been through a lot together and have plenty of information that could negatively influence his reputation. Do you leak this information?

3. You and your spouse had a real blowout. Do you vent to your friends?
These situations are examples of implied confidentiality. In each case, no one is explicitly asked not to say anything, but clearly the right thing to do is to keep these things in confidence. There’s quite a bit at stake for the person at the center of each situation. Careers, reputations, and relationships could be irreparably damaged.

Here are a few tips when it comes to keeping confidences:

  • Never share information that you have been asked to keep confidential.
  • Use your judgment when it comes to matters of implied confidentiality.
  • Keep things confidential that were intended to be confidential even if a relationship breaks down.
  • Do not vent your private marital or relationship issues with your friends. This will cause them to view your spouse or significant other differently, probably negatively.
  • When someone says, “I was asked to keep this in confidence, but I can share it with you,” let them know that you’d rather not be involved.

The next time you consider sharing information, be sure to ask yourself if there is a chance that the person who shared the information with you would like it kept confidential. If that is the case, don’t share it.

As in most matters, there are exceptions to keeping confidences, such as when someone’s health or well-being is at risk. Don’t take the oath of secrecy so far that you let someone continue to endanger themselves or someone else.

Are you willing to make a commitment to never share anything that should be kept confidential? It’s not an easy commitment, but remember that your decision to share or not to share will affect how others view you.

When you keep things confidential that should be confidential, you will gain the reputation as a person who can be trusted, and you will grow strong in character and value.

Lesson #3 – The Notebook and Looseleaf

During the course of hosting you will speak with a lot of chatters. You will find that hosting increases your popularity and now members who never spoke to you will seek you out. Our memories are not always reliable. It is for this reason that we highly recommend using a notebook for note taking (or computerizing this information). Here is one suggestion for record keeping.

1.  Place a notebook beside you each time you host.

2.  Use a separate page for each day. Record the date on the top.

3.  Take notes on chatters:

a.  To refresh your memory during future talks with chatters

b.  For host reports:

(1) Report on chatters who need extra attention

(2) Report on chatters who pose potential problems

(3) Any unusual happenings or any information that would help other hosts

(4) Remember to respect the confidentiality of chatters.

Do not underestimate the importance of keeping these records. Chatters really appreciate you remembering; it shows them that you care. There are times when chatters will speak to you weeks apart and it’s difficult to recall the details of your conversations without referring to notes.

There was a chatter whom I spoke to once or twice. I wrote about the conversation in my notes. A week or two later the chatter pc’d me and asked if I remembered her. I quickly checked my notebook and said yes, we talked about…She said, “Wow, you remembered. You really care.” I didn’t remember, not because I didn’t care but because I spoke to so many chatters. In actuality, I did care. I showed it by taking and referring to my notes.


Hosts are not only supportive listeners but serve as informational resources. We have a resource list, which has names, phone numbers and links that should be shared with chatters. However, there are times that we, ourselves, can provide the information. Again, we cannot store everything in our heads so we recommend that you:

1. Purchase a looseleaf with 2″ rings (or computerize the information.  Computerizing actually makes it quicker to access the data and copy and pass it on to chatters.)

2. If you are taking the manual route, buy several sets of dividers. Label the dividers to organize your resources. Print out important sections of the host training manual (The lessons will be posted to the FB page as we complete them in the course). For example, Resources, Suicide, Self Injury, Rape, Panic/Anxiety/Flashbacks, How to Choose a Therapist, Depression Screening Quiz, Sleep, Medications, Depression, Specific Illnesses, Alcohol/Drug Addiction, Anorexia, Chat Room/Host Information, etc.. As the chat room changes, you will find the need to add/delete sections.

3. What information do you put in the looseleaf? Anything that you believe will help chatters. The chat room comes and goes in waves so try to keep your pulse on the chat room to learn its needs. You can then prepare vital information and disseminate it, as needed.  Where do you find the information?

(a) By copying information that is found in the training manual and on the host email list.

(b) By doing research, if you so desire, on the specific topic

(c) Copying any articles of interest that you come across.

4. This is only one system that has been successful for many hosts. Find a system that you are comfortable with and that works for you. Whatever you use, find something that will allow you to get to the information quickly and easily.

5. Some areas are frequently discussed in the chat room. To get to these pages even quicker you can place a paper clip on top of those pages, if you keep an offline looseleaf. The advantage to keeping everything online is that you can quickly copy and paste information.

Lesson #2 – Host Responsibilities/Procedures

1. Keep up-to-date with the private host Facebook page. Visit the Depression Sanctuary Chat Hosts Facebook page to stay in the loop about what’s happening in the chat room. You’ll find hosts’ reports, new policies, problems (and hopefully solutions), information shared by a host and more. Also, if you are hosting in the chat room and need help, make a post on the FB page.

2. Before hosting, check the hosts’ Facebook page for any important notices, room happenings, etc.

3. After hosting, post a note on the Facebook page if you need to give the team a “heads up.” This means only post if there is a problem in chat, if a chatter is in need or any other information you think will help the host team.

4. Make certain that chatters are welcomed when they enter and told goodbye when they leave.

For example, “Hi Addy.” “Good to see you Addy.” “Welcome Addy” “I’m glad you joined us Addy.” I liked to hug chatters when they entered the room. Hi ((((Addy))))” Most people liked being hugged. In rare instances it became problematic when people who were sexually abused didn’t want to be touched. When chatters say they are going to leave type, “Bye, Addy,” “It was good seeing you, Addy,” “Have a good night, Addy,” etc.

How important is this? Years ago there was a chatter who was rude to everyone. She cursed hosts and chatters and wouldn’t talk to anyone. She was close to being banned. I welcomed her every time she entered the room, just like I greeted everyone else. She never responded but I continued being friendly. One day, she pc’d me. We talked and developed a deep relationship, which lasted for many years. She didn’t contribute to chat but was no longer disruptive. One day I asked her, “Why did you pc me?” She said, “Because you said hello to me.” So, you never know the power of one hello or the impact your words can make on another person.

5. Be on the alert for chatters who feel the need to talk to someone.

6. Answer questions/make referrals to resources within your own knowledge and abilities.

7. Do NOT diagnose. Refer people to mental health professionals and resources.

For example, when a chatter comes into the room and asks “Am I depressed,” you cannot say yes or no because you are not a licensed mental health professional qualified to make such a diagnosis. What you can do is copy and paste the criteria for the illness (from the training manual or you can google “criteria for depression”) into the chat room and tell the person to review the symptoms and see if they think they fit the criteria for the illness. If they do, recommend they make an appointment with their medical doctor and get a complete checkup because there are physical illnesses whose symptoms mimic those of depression. If they receive a clean bill of health then they should visit a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist for a mental health evaluation.

8. Refer suicidal visitors to crisis lines. A link for suicide hotlines can be found on the home page of the Depression Sanctuary site (www.depressionsanctuary.org) or you can go directly to: http://www.depressionsanctuary.org/suicide-hotlines-and-crisis-resources/ You will have the hotline numbers in your resource guide. Copy and paste them right into the chat room. Also refer chatters to their private physician or therapist, local 911 or other appropriate professional resources.

9. You are NOT required to attempt to trace suicidal visitors or call 911 for chatters; however, you are not prohibited from trying if your conscience dictates that you do so. Do whatever is in your comfort zone.

In one case, a host was talking to a chatter who was suicidal. This chatter was at a hotel in NYC and the host surmised that the suicide attempt was imminent. The chatter said she was lining up pills and going to take them one by one. The host knew the chatter’s real name and found out the name of the hotel. She called police. The police responded and prevented the suicide. They said the chatter already began taking pills, which were lined up.

10. Keep the room safe and orderly, at all times. It can be done by upholding the guidelines and treating all visitors with respect.

11. Enforce the guidelines. You can find a link for them on Depression Sanctuary’s home page (www.depressionsanctuary.org).

If there is a problem in chat say something like, “I’m sure you aren’t familiar with our guidelines” and copy and paste the guideline the person is violating. Do this in a private chat so not to embarrass the person.

12. Set a good example for others by handling your own problems appropriately. For example, following a doctor’s advice, seeking medical attention when you need it, taking a mental health leave(s) when you are not up to working.

13. Guide the chatters towards a friendly, supportive environment by encouraging them to assist and support each other (“Does anyone have any suggestions for ?” “Did anyone have a similar experience? Can you share how you handled it?” “Does anyone know about ?); introducing members who share common problems and interests to each other and trying to get new members involved in the conversation (“What do you think about…”)

Depression Sanctuary is a community of support. As said earlier, the hosts have different ages, experiences, personalities and depressive disorders as do chatters. If you’ve ever witnessed chatters helping one another, it is a thing of beauty. The person in need receives many different strategies for coping, realizes they are not the only one struggling with a mood disorder, has feelings validated many times over, feels understood and receives more support than they’ve ever imagined.

14. Try to discourage the use of the private chat (pc), as it limits open room participation and conversation. The exception to this is a chatter who says they are having trouble following a fast moving board. In that case, I’d suggest pc’ing with one person. Another reason to ask someone to go to pc is if their conversation is triggering people in the chat room.

15. Encourage use of “Ignore” as first line of defense when chatters are disruptive. Left click the user name and it lists it as an option. Our program doesn’t seem to have an “Ignore” button but chatters can go under “options,” then “message filters,” then “view messages from certain users” or “approve all private chat.”

16. Limit your pc’s to what you feel you can comfortably handle while still being available to monitor the room. You do not have to take pc’s if you find them stressful. If you are exclusively in pc’s you’re only supporting a few, rather than being a resource for the entire room. If you are hosting with another host, you maybe able to split the responsibilities. You can equally cover the room and pc’s. Or you can do what I did with one host during the about.com days. She felt uncomfortable in pc’s and I loved pc’s. She stayed in the open room and I devoted much of my time to pc’s.

17. Report problems to Nancy and the other hosts. This can be done via the Facebook page or private messaging.

18. Provide a supportive environment to all hosts. Hopefully, you will like all the hosts, but if there is a personality conflict, remember that you are on a team and it’s your responsibility to work with and respect one another. Put your differences aside for the sake of the chat. As a team, we are only as strong as our weakest link. If a host is in trouble, help them first. Not because they’re better than chatters but because if a host is down they cannot help people in the room.

19. The number of hours and days that you host is entirely up to you, however, you are expected to make a commitment to the chat room and spend time hosting.

20. Remember, there is only so much you can do to help. Chatters must take steps to help themselves.

21. Always:

(a) Be respectful
(b) Host with compassion, empathy and understanding
(c) Try to be where the chatter is. Put yourself in his/her shoes.
(d) Be fair
(e) Be courteous, friendly
(f) Be objective
(g) Deal with troublemakers in a no-nonsense way
(h) Use common sense
(i) Keep it all in perspective
(j) Maintain a sense of humor
(k) Get yourself support, when needed