FirstLink Spring 2023 Newsletter

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Helpline UPDATE

Spring is a time of growth and transformation, and here at FirstLink we’ve had a lot of changes! In July 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline rebranded into the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Though the 800 number (1-800273-8255) is still available, it is now more easily accessible by simply calling or texting 9-8-8. You are also able to reach out online at to chat with a counselor. This is a great update to an important service that will make it easier for those in need to get the help they need and deserve!

With this switch, FirstLink brought on more staff to make sure that we can assist all those who need our help! We’re ramping up our staff since calls, chats and text continue to increase as 9-8-8 is more widely advertised. We now have a staff of 32 wonderful individuals.

Don’t forget, at FirstLink, we not only answer the 9-8-8 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, but also the 2-1-1 Helpline. You can call 2-11 or text your zip code to 898-211 for free, confidential referrals to resources, listening and support and crisis intervention.

FirstLink’s database lists information on 5,179 different programs that covers everything from government agencies, healthcare, support groups, and financial assistance for those in need. These programs are updated quarterly by the Community Resource Team. Among these programs are a significant number that offers mental health support like support groups, mental health counseling services, specialized mental health therapy, and treatment for substance use disorders.

Based on chronic illness, mental healthspecific disorders, substance/alcohol use, and more, there are support groups available for individuals with many different needs. For example, The American Foundation for

Suicide Prevention holds groups for adult survivors of suicide loss monthly across North Dakota. We also have a program through the AA clubhouse to be able to search and connect individuals with open, closed, virtual, or in-person meetings across North Dakota. Our database can be accessed by going to our website and clicking Community Resource Directory, or, by calling 2-1-1 to get support or resources 24 hours a day .

No matter the need, our Call Specialists are

Spring 2023


I want to thank you for your continued support of FirstLink’s mission and vision. Together we are making our communities safer from suicide. I have had the opportunity to hear inspirational stories of life, recovery, and success.

A while back, I presented Suicied Education Outreach (SEO) at a middle school class covering behavioral health, potential thoughts of suicide in life, and what to do if these thoughts ever ender their minds. After class, a student shared their journey of having depression that developed into thoughts of suicide. They talked about how scary it was to pick up the phone and slowly dial 9-8-8, about wanting to hang up when the call specialist answered the phone but decided to talk because their voice sounded friendly.

This student said this was 3 months ago, and they are still

Care and Support PROGRAM

The FirstLink Care and Support team has been receiving an increasing number of calls. As that number grows, so has our team. We are excited to welcome a new Care Coordinator, Hannah, and a new Care and Support Specialist, Katelyn. As our team grows, we will strive to provide the best support possible for our participants. .

We continue to hear from our participants about the positive impact the program has made in their lives. One participant shared, “I really appreciate you calling. It’s hard to resist the urge to want to kill myself but knowing you guys will be calling me makes it easier to stay alive.” This program helps people know that there is constant support out there for them, someone they can rely on. Other participants have shared, “Ever since I talked to you guys, everything has aligned. I got set up with a therapist, I cut the toxic people out of my life, I’m the calmest that I’ve ever felt,” and “This call is very helpful because I get scared to open up to people. Thank you for letting me be heard, it means a lot.” We are excited to continue growing the Care and Support program and to continue to bring hope to everyone we call.

alive, they are now going to counseling every other week, and have started taking meds to help their brain feel happy again. I was trying not to cry as this student gave me a sticker to add to my computer to remember them by and to remember to keep telling teens to call, text, or chat 9-8-8 because this service does make a difference.

Without your continued support, our staff could not be ready to answer our phone lines. We would not hear these success stories without all of us working together. Thank you for supporting FirstLink by attending our events, following us on social media sites, giving us donations to support our services, and continuing to give us support along the way.

We look forward to continuing to support and empower our clients and watching the Care and Support Program continue to flourish.

For 2023’s Giving Hearts Day–North Dakota’s 24-hour online giving event–FirstLink had a bold goal to raise $43,000 on February 9th. Thanks to our generous donors and community supporters, we were able to exceed this goal and raise over $45,000! Thank you to everyone that helped us reach our goal. Since Giving Hearts Day, FirstLink has already handled over 10,000 calls! Your support has empowered us to be there 24 hours a day, providing help to all those struggling in our communities.

A letter from Executive Director


I was going through a crisis. I called at 2 in the morning, and the man who I talked to was an angel.

MAY 4TH, 2023 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM


At FirstLink, the Spring season means it’s time for the Youth Film Festival and Annual Breakfast. This will be our second year of the Youth Film Festival, called Silence Speaks Aloud. We are excited to showcase the stories and talent of our area’s young people once again.

The Annual Breakfast will feature a national speaker, Dennis Gillan. Dennis is a national thought leader on the topic of suicide prevention and mental health advocacy. He travels internationally speaking, raising awareness, and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

Dennis has been deeply touched by suicide after the loss of both of his brothers to suicide, eleven years apart. After years of sitting on the sidelines, he jumped into helping those in need by working on the suicide prevention hotline when he lived in Chicago. After moving to South Carolina, Dennis got involved with several

non-profits that take on mental health issues, allowing him to lobby lawmakers and raise awareness by sharing his story. Dennis gave a TEDx talk about loneliness that has received over 25,000 views! Dennis also co-wrote a children’s book about dealing with sadness and showing children how kindness can save a life.

Dennis is the executive director of a non-profit called the Half a Sorrow Foundation. The name of the foundation comes from an old Swedish proverb that states a shared joy is a double joy, a shared sorrow is half a sorrow. Half a Sorrow Foundation’s mission is to improve mental health by promoting real conversations.

Dennis’ talk promotes real conversations and his style and delivery is like nothing else out there. He combines his losses with real world solutions and even sprinkles in humor from time to time to disarm the audience and let the message land. That message is life is worth living!

FirstLink annu al 14th
hosted by
Scan the QR code in the bottom right to register today! or register at event/annual-breakfast-2/
Dennis Gillan Executive Director Half a Sorrow Foundation
I am a huge believer in the FirstLink helpline and what you do, and that you listen and do not judge. It is amazing what you do.
It matters --- you did that! You matter, and you do so much. You are the reason that I am here and can celebrate with my family today. You have done so much.



Presented by up for our E-Newsletter here

April 13th, 2023 7:00 p.m.

The Annual FirstLink Breakfast will also include an opportunity to view the winning submissions from our inaugural FirstLink Film Festival + Competition, “Silence Speaks Aloud”! Be among the first to see these incredible films created by our community’s young artists by attending the festival on April 13th.

More information and tickets can be found at or by scanning the QR code.


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