Suicide awareness at NDSU

Students learned about signs that could indicate suicidal thoughts

Students were able to learn about the many ways they can recognize and prevent suicide at North Dakota State.

“Let’s Talk About Suicide Awareness” was an event that took place April 17 in the Memorial Union.

The event was hosted by NDSU Health Promotion, FirstLink and Snap the Stigma, which all partnered to present the topic of mental health and suicide and why everyone should know about the subject.

These organizations want to continue bringing awareness to the topic of suicide after Kevin Hines’ presentation, which took place March 27.

Ashley Ladbury Hrichena, a training and education coordinator from FirstLink, was the guest speaker for the event.

FirstLink is a nonprofit suicide support service located in Fargo that has a hotline that operates 24 hours a day.

The staff is there to help those at risk of suicide and that have thoughts of suicide. They are also there to give emotional support to anyone who feels like there is no one else to talk to. FirstLink works with other organizations, including Prairie St. Johns, a psychiatric and addiction facility in Fargo, to give care to those who need it.

“We find that if we’re willing to listen and be there to connect with that person, then they’re willing to work with us to make a plan to stay safe.”

Ashley Ladbury Hrichena, a training and education coordinator from FirstLink

Altogether, FirstLink’s goal is to fight the stigma that surrounds mental health and suicide.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for adults in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-24. Minnesota ranks 38th in the nation for the number of suicidal deaths, and North Dakota ranks 13th.

Throughout the presentation, Ladbury Hrichena discussed the warning signs someone may exhibit when they are suicidal and how someone can reach out for help.

Ladbury Hrichera started the presentation by showing how many people use FirstLink. Just last year alone, FirstLink had 55,340 contacts from people, and 10,000 of those calls were related to suicide. 

She mentioned that most of those who are suicidal often want the help and want to create a plan with someone to keep them safe.

“There is a part of them that wants to live and wants to stay safe, but they just don’t know how to do it. They don’t know what the options are, they don’t know what to do and they’re just scared,” Ladbury Hrichera said when talking about those 10,000 calls that were related to suicide.

“We find that if we’re willing to listen and be there to connect with that person, then they’re willing to work with us to make a plan to stay safe,” she said.

Ladbury Hrichera also talked about the many myths that society believes when it comes to suicide.

Some of these myths are that suicidal individuals will become angry if someone wants to help them and that once someone has suicidal thoughts, there’s nothing others can do to help them.

Ladbury Hrichena mentioned that in her time working at FirstLink she’s never encountered an individual who was angry that someone else was looking out for them.

The path to suicide often starts with a perceived unsolvable problem; mainly psychological pain linked with another mental illness that leaves the person feeling like there is nothing they can do. This will lead to thoughts, plans and attempts of suicide.

Throughout these steps, interventions can help the individual even if they’ve already attempted suicide.

Some of the warning signs someone at risk of suicide may show are include talking about death or killing oneself, withdrawing from people, abrupt changes in behavior and changes in school or work performance. Ladbury Hrichena mentioned that people around the at-risk person often don’t perceive these warning signs and don’t think that suicide is likely.

There are some steps one can take when getting help for a suicidal individual. The first step is to assess for safety, making sure to approach the person with care and without judgment.

Sharing what you’ve noticed by using “I statements” will show how much you care about their safety. You can then ask if they are having thoughts of suicide, how long these thoughts have been going on, if they have attempted suicide in the past and if they have created a plan.

Those who want to get help for someone can reach out to FirstLink at their 24-hour helpline at 2-1-1 or 701-235-SEEK (7335). This is where they can report the person who may be suicidal.

From there, FirstLink will contact the individual who is believed to be at risk. The person who called about the suicidal individual will remain anonymous.

FirstLink looks up agencies for any at-risk individuals to get them counseling, support groups and other resources to help them in the future. They can also try to solve any stressor(s) that may be causing those feelings.

FirstLink also offers follow-up calls to make sure those who they talked to before are still doing well. They have a contract with many hospitals around Fargo like Prairie St. John’s and Sanford and with Altru in Grand Forks.

These follow-up calls are to ensure that those just released from the hospital with a psychiatric emergency will continue to get the support without slipping back into a crisis.

FirstLink has a new service that lets the community text for resources. Anyone can text their zip code to 898-211 to reach the call center at FirstLink where they can text out information for resources or give support.

Ladbury Hrichena let everyone know that even those who aren’t having suicidal thoughts can call FirstLink to talk through any emotional times they are experiencing. “You don’t have to be suicidal to call,” Ladbury Hrichen said. “People can call and talk about any type of issue, whether it’s mental health related, family related or stress related.”

Anyone who wants to learn more about suicide prevention can go to and check out future events and trainings they host.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

Leave a Reply