It was a phone call that saved Shannon’s life in the end. A simple three-digit number off a business card. 2-1-1. FirstLink’s suicide hotline.
She was a sophomore at the time. It was her first time living alone. She was taking her largest class load yet and working full-time to pay off loans. Day after day, the work built up, and with it, the stress. One night she came home, slung her backpack off her shoulder, and started to sob.
“I really just broke,” she said.
Depression and anxiety run in her family, so she was no stranger to the feelings that consumed her. But this time, it was different. She began to feel trapped. She wanted a way out. Her thoughts began to mount, like layers of snow “I’m disgusting” “I spend all my time laying on the couch” “I’m going to get fired” “I’m going to fail the test” “There’s no way out of this” “I can’t handle being an adult.”
Desperate for help, she suddenly remembered a FirstLink business card she had picked up on campus. It was in her backpack. She reached for it, pulled it out. With a deep breath, she dialed FirstLink.
“Suicide lifeline, this is Jim* how can I help you?”
It was a man’s voice, and he sounded kind. He cared.
“He let me know it was okay,” Shannon recalls. “He said even though I was having suicidal thoughts that I couldn’t control, I didn’t have to listen to them. He told me there was help out there.”
The man connected her with the resources she needed to get affordable counseling, and develop a long-term plan to combat the heavy blanket of depression she was feeling. When she got off the phone, she felt lighter and more confident.
A few years later, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. “I don’t know that I would have been able to do that if I hadn’t gotten the help from FirstLink,” Shannon said.
Today, Shannon works in social services. She listens to others going through their own trials, and connects them with the resources they need. She spends her free time volunteering with First Link, helping with marketing campaigns and sharing her story with everyone she can.
“FirstLink does so much in the community to help get rid of the stigma that is attached to depression and anxiety,” she said. “I think the first step is just talking about it. A lot of people are still scared to talk about suicide. At FirstLink, I met people who weren’t afraid to talk about suicide. They weren’t put off by the stigma.”
In North Dakota, suicide is on the rise. It is the 9th leading cause of death in this state, with 133 lives lost to suicide in 2014. For these reasons, Shannon and FirstLink see a huge need for investing in suicide prevention programs.
“We need to pay to train people, to have people answer the phone,” Shannon said. “We have to get people to understand that this really is a life or death situation.”
When she thinks back to younger Shannon sitting on the floor that night, she vividly recalls how crucial one phone call can be.
“For me, it absolutely was a life or death situation,” she said. “If I hadn’t had FirstLink’s hotline, I don’t know that I would still be here today.”
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Every phone call costs about $15 to operate. By giving $15 to FirstLink on Giving Hearts Day, you are supporting phone calls like the one that saved Shannon’s life. Make your gift on February 9, 2017, and it’s automatically matched. Together, we can work to #SpeakUp about suicide and tell more stories like Shannon’s — stories of new life.
*Name changed for anonymity.