Fighting Suicide in North Dakota

Volunteers help spread the word about the stigma of suicide.

NDSU’s fight

North Dakota State is doing its part in the fight against suicide. On Tuesday, Sept. 11, NDSU Libraries hosted an event to take part in National Suicide Prevention Week.

Joining the NDSU Libraries was Prairie St. John’s regional account manager Kara Kluvers, who delivered a message that education is the best way students can help with preventing suicide, a problem that plagues North Dakota. Kluvers said the suicide death rate was up 57.7 percent since last year alone.

Clover wanted students to be aware, battle the stigma and know the warning signs, which are as follows:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself, through firearms, pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death or dying
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger
  • Acting reckless
  • Feeling trapped
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Feeling anxious, agitated
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living

Lindsay Condry, NDSU Libraries marketing and programs coordinator, wanted to remind students the library has resources available for them such as books and journals. The library featured an opportunity for students to write the names of people they’ve lost and post them to a wall to remember them.

Kluvers gave a statistic that one in three college students contemplate suicide, and one in 10 college students have attempted suicide.

More than anything else, Condry wanted to remind students that the resources are available and open to them, such as the NDSU Counseling Center, which will meet with students on a regular basis for free if they are in need of help. Kluvers said that if students only take one piece of information away, hopefully it is that the information will make a positive impact. She also said she wants to see students create action and impact in the community.

A walk for the cause

Scheels Arena hosted the annual Out of the Darkness community walk Sunday, Sept. 9 in commemoration of families, survivors and those lost to suicide. Teams who participated in the walk collected sponsors and raised money for the cause. Many of the teams wore the names of people lost on their shirt.

One of the walkers, Lisa Christianson, was directly impacted by suicide when her son Chase took his own life in 2011.

“The first year in 2012, my husband and I came by ourselves,” Christianson said. “We noticed other people were making teams for this, and so we decided we would make a team and make T-shirts.”

Christianson said the event holds importance in her life because it brings awareness to the issue of “suicide and mental health issues with kids and veterans and everyone alike.”

Many on the walk had signs and shirts that said, “Fight the stigma.” For Christianson, the stigma around suicide is that “people aren’t strong enough to deal with their feeling themselves, so they commit suicide.”

Suicide, to Christianson, is a real disease that affects not only the victims but people close to them. Teams like Christianson’s and other donors raised nearly $100,000 for suicide prevention and research. More than 2,000 people attended the walk.

A senator’s discussion

On Monday, Sept. 10, which is also National Suicide Prevention Day, community leaders gathered at the DoubleTree hotel for a half-day discussion hosted by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Heitkamp said the state needs a plan to deal with its growing suicide problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on suicide and found that North Dakota had the fastest growing rate of people taking their own lives.

“We need to have a strategy to really tackle it (the problem of suicide),” Heitkamp said. “We have some great suicide prevention work that’s being done in North Dakota (that) we want to amplify.” This would involve better understanding the scientific and societal nuances of the problem, according to Heitkamp.

North Dakota is “woefully short in behavior and mental health services,” with rural communities in particular lacking the resources to combat this problem, Heitkamp said. According to Heitkamp, the only way this changes is if the state commits to changing outcomes.

“We’re just here to learn more, me too,” Heitkamp said. “We’re just here to strategize, and you can see we’re going to be doing breakout sessions and talking about what more we can do, and hopefully bringing everyone in at the end to work with the State Department of Health to improve our suicide prevention response.”

If you are contemplating suicide know there are resources available to you;

  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline; 1-800-273-8255
  • FirstLink Suicide Line; 232-4357
  • NDSU Counseling Center; 701-231-7671
  • Prairie St. John’s 24/7 Needs Assessment Line; 701-476-7216
  • Crisis Text Line; Text HOME to 741741

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