2022 Fall Newsletter

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Fall 2022

Gay and bisexual youth are almost

FIVE TIMES AS LIKELY to have attempted suicide as their straight peers.*


SEPTEMBER 15 , 2022 I 11:30 am - 1:00 pm th

September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, and FirstLink is celebrating with our annual Lifesaver Luncheon on Thursday, September 15. After a two-year COVID hiatus, we are excited to be back in-person at the Delta by Marriott. This year’s event will focus on suicide and the LGBTQ+ community. Together, we will learn how the LGBTQ + community is affected by suicide and discover best practices for working with those in this community. Our featured speakers for this year’s Lifesaver Luncheon are Faye

Seidler and Dr. Danial Sturgill. Faye Seidler is an award-winning activist, educator, and community organizer who specializes in improving equitable outcomes for LGBTQ+ individuals. She has provided queer-focused professional development training across North Dakota and Minnesota for the past seven years. Dr. Danial Sturgill is a psychologist at Sanford Health in Moorhead. Since 2014, he has focused on mental health services for transgender and gender diverse individuals. He works with adults, adolescents, children, and families. We hope you can join us to hear from Faye and Dr. Sturgill at the FirstLink Lifesaver Luncheon on September 15!


LGBTQ+ Care Coordinator for Canopy Medical Clinic


Psychologist at Sanford Health

Register today by visiting https://firstlink.regfox.com/lifesaver-luncheon

A letter from Executive Director

JENNIFER ILLICH Have you heard? On July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number 988 did not replace the 1-800 number, it was added as a new way to reach the lifeline. FirstLink will continue to answer the 211 and 988 phone lines for North Dakota and parts of Minnesota, offering 24/7 access to trained call specialists who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress.

can call the Lifeline for all sorts of reasons, in addition to thoughts of suicide. Having a bad day, feeling down, or feeling defeated are all completely valid reasons to pick up the phone and dial 988. If you or someone you know is struggling, please do not hesitate to call or text 988. Numerous studies have shown that most Lifeline callers feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to a call specialist. We appreciate your ongoing support to make sure we are ready and able to answer the phone lines.

Our call volume has increased since this new, shorter phone number was released. I am excited about the transition to 988, which will make it much easier for someone who is having an anxiety attack, struggling with substances, or thinking of suicide to receive support. I am also glad that the national campaign will change from promoting calling the lifeline for suicide to calling for suicide and crisis intervention. People

Care and Support


The FirstLink Care and Support program has undergone a couple of changes in recent months. We know affirming a person’s identity is an important part of suicide prevention. When talking to callers, the Care and Support team wants to be as affirming as possible, so we are excited to add pronouns and preferred names to our external referral form that is completed by hospitals. We are making sure to be diligent so that people’s correct pronouns and preferred name are used. We have also experienced some staffing changes in the past few months. We have a new daytime Care and Support Specialist, Hannah. As our call volume increased, we also decided to add another daytime Care and Support Specialist. Our evening specialist, Sam, will take over this position once we hire a new evening specialist. As the Care and Support team grows, so do our calls to help those struggling with thoughts of suicide and substance use crisis. From January - June of 2021 the Care and Support Team made 5109 calls. During that same period this year, we made 8752 calls. As our referrals increase so do the number of Care Cards sent with notes of encouragement and connection to those struggling with behavioral health issues. In the first six months of 2022, we have more than doubled the number of Caring Cards sent during the same period in 2021 from 566 cards to 1175 cards.

We look forward to watching the Care and Support Program continue to flourish!

Jennifer Illich Jennifer Illich

Executive Director



8,752 CALLS




On July 16, 2022, North Dakota joined the rest of the United States in beginning to use the 988-dialing code. 988 is the new three-digit number that connects people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where compassionate, accessible care and support are available for anyone experiencing mental health–related distress. In North Dakota, the 988 Lifeline is answered by FirstLink. In the first week that 988 was active, Lifeline nationally saw an approximate 45 percent increase in volume from the previous week and an approximate 66 percent increase compared to the same week in 2021.

UPDATE People can call or text 988 if they are experiencing thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crises, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

The Community Resource team has

The Lifeline works! Since FirstLink began answering the Lifeline, it has served as an invaluable resource, helping thousands of people overcome suicidal thoughts or mental health-related distress every day. With the transition to 988, these life-saving

Specialists to the team, Kiymara Smith and Rachel Pavlicek. Kiymara is currently in school for Graphic Design

services will be even easier to reach. FirstLink will continue to answer the 2-1-1 Helpline for North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota for callers looking for information on community resources.

undergone several changes in the past few months. Our Community Resource Specialist, Chelsy Black, was recently promoted to Community Resource Coordinator. We have also added two new Community Resource

at M-State. Kiymara hopes to be a photojournalist with a minor in film. Rachel recently graduated from NDSU with a Bachelor of Science degree and is working towards being accepted into a clinical counseling program next year. Together, the Community Resource Team has verified more resources than at this time last year. This helps our Call Specialists ensure our callers are receiving the most accurate, up-to-date information possible. They have also been hard at work adding new agencies to the database. In the first six months of 2022, the Community Resource team added 65 new resource listings to the Community Resource Directory.

4357 13th Ave S # 107L, Fargo, ND 58103

Ashley Recertified as


This summer, FirstLink Operations Director Ashley was recertified as a Community Resource Specialist through the Alliance of Information and Referrals Systems (AIRS). Ashley first became certified as a Community Resource Specialist in October of 2012. As a Certified Community Resource Specialist for nearly 10 years, Ashley has demonstrated an ability to provide information and referral system navigation by establishing rapport, conducting assessments, providing informed choices of referrals, engaging in follow-up, and providing advocacy or crisis interventions.

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