FirstLink 2021 Winter Newsletter

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WINTER 2021

FIRSTLINK CARE & SUPPORT SERVICES 2020 was a year to remember! Challenging, but we made it through. The global pandemic has been rough for those at risk for suicide, substance use disorders, and behavioral and mental health issues. Some places have had to temporarily shut down and try adjusting or adapting by using digital health technologies to better assist their clients during this time. This left some people at a loss as to where to turn. FirstLink’s Care and Support team offers support, harm reduction, safety planning, and assertive connection to resources for those at risk for suicide and/or who may experience problems related to their or a loved one’s substance use. Because of the immense stress and uncertainty 2020 brought, many people

who have never had to deal with these issues found themselves navigating uncharted waters. Our call volume went up, but our dedication to provide the best service available to each help seeker remained the same. Our Care and Support team and Call Specialists pride themselves on offering listening, support, and resources to help our fellow community members. As of December 1, the Care and Support Team had made 9,184 outgoing calls from the 1,995 referrals sent. Over half of those reached accepted follow up and the Care and Support Team is working on new ways to increase our reach rate. If you or someone you know is struggling, please give FirstLink a call. We are here 24/7, and are ready to assist you. Whether you need resources or just someone to talk to, our number is (701) 235-7335. You may also dial 2-1-1 or text your zip code to 898-211 to reach us. And remember to mask up for yourself, your family, your friends, and neighbors!


A LETTER FROM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CINDY MILLER

I would like to start by saying Happy New Year (or at least a happier New Year than 2020 was for so many of us)! I am excited and see the hope in 2021 and I sincerely hope you do too. We have learned a lot over the past 12 months, and we have adapted as best we could. Next, I want to thank everyone who supported us in 2020. Our call and text volume significantly increased over the past year, as many of us are dealing with COVID anxiety, general anxiety, suicide, loneliness, and financial instability. We recognize that this time may have a long-lasting impact on all of us. We have hired more staff to handle the calls and texts, and to continue to be

there 24/7 to listen, support, and connect your family, friends, and neighbors to great resources. This has been possible because of you! Finally, Giving Hearts Day is right around the corner on February 11. I hope you will continue to support FirstLink and the hundreds of other nonprofits who do great work every day to strengthen our community. Here is to 2021 and where it may take us.

Cindy Miller FirstLink’s Executive Director

MEET THE TEAM

CHRISSY HOLLERMAN Call Specialist and Shift Lead

My name is Chrissy Hollermann. I currently work overnights as a Call Specialist and Shift Lead At FirstLink and I am loving it. I first worked for FirstLink back in 2014 when I was working on my MS in higher education and counseling. Since then, I’ve held a variety of positions in both higher education and in the mental health field. In every position, I ended up facing the same two frustrations: hours required while salaried and systems that limited access or resources to the population(s) being served. I left my last job at the start of the pandemic after being placed in high-risk environments without appropriate PPE and in that job search I saw an opening for an Overnight Call Specialist. I’ve been excited and grateful to be back on the FirstLink team.

MEGAN WIDMER

Community Resource Specialist

My name is Megan Widmer and I’m a Community Resource Specialist at FirstLink. I’ve been here since July and began by working as an overnight Call Specialist, which was a great way to gain experience and get a feel for the work that is done with this agency. I jumped on the chance to further my skill set and better serve FirstLink and our community by applying for the open Community Resource role. This has been the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had because I get to make a difference in the lives of other people. Making that connection over the phone is a very rewarding experience. The other staff here at FirstLink are also incredibly welcoming and down-to-earth, and I’m excited to continue to grow with this organization.


LOOKING FORWARD As we leave 2020 behind and look forward to 2021, it is important to stay grateful despite the stress and uncertainty we have all faced. Feeling and showing gratitude are more than just nice things to do; they help you appreciate your life and what you have without comparing yourself to others. It feels good to be grateful! Practicing gratitude can have long-lasting mental health benefits, even if you keep it to yourself. Although it can feel challenging at first (especially this past year), there are easy ways you can start practicing gratitude today.

1. Say “Thank you!” All the time.

It may sound simple, but saying “thank you” and meaning it can boost your mood and make the person you are thanking feel good, too. You can thank someone who holds the door for you, the person at the cash register, or even a loved one for simply being in your life.

2. Write down what you appreciate most. This is a great

exercise to help you see how much you truly have. Try not to focus on material things. Perhaps you feel grateful for your family, a healthy body, or the nice weather outside. You will see that being grateful can really have a positive impact on your mental health.

3. Pay attention to your emotions. It is important to stay in

around you. Being present, feeling your breath, or having a few minutes of silence can all be exercises in gratitude when you practice focusing on the positive. Staying grateful in difficult times can be challenging, but with a little practice, it becomes much easier to see the good instead of focusing on the negative. Being grateful is a simple way to keep afloat and can help you #BeTheDifference for yourself and those around you.

tune with how you are feeling so you can make changes when necessary. Meditation and mindfulness exercises are great ways to take a breather and escape from everyday stressors. This can look different from person to person, but it can help to separate yourself and think about all the positives

SUCCESS STORIES I needed to talk, thanks!

I was scared to ask for help, I have never needed to ask for help before. FirstLink made me feel that it was ok to ask. Thank you.

New Year, new me. I am going to work on myself this year. Thanks for linking me to resources.

You are always there for me. Thank you.


P.O. Box 447 Fargo, ND 58107-0447

Mark Your Calendars: Giving Hearts Day 2021 is coming up on Thursday, February 11. This year, your gift of $25 will allow FirstLink to operate one life-saving phone call for a neighbor in need. Schedule a gift today or give February 11 at givingheartsday.org, or mail a check to First Link dated February 11. Every dollar and donor counts! #CountMe #ConnectedinCrisis