FARGO, N.D. (Prairie News) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says North Dakota has seen a disturbing spike in its suicide rate over the past two decades.

FirstLink maintains the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in North Dakota and has been on the front lines of helping people in need.

The nonprofit group has seen numbers for suicide-related calls increase dramatically in recent years, from about 2,500 in 2016 to more than 6,500 in 2017.

But Cindy Miller, FirstLink’s executive director, says fortunately her service only had to dispatch law enforcement on 45 occasions last year. She says it’s amazing how much of a difference listening can make.

In October, Farmers Union Insurance made a $20,000 donation to FirstLink. Farmers and ranchers have been under growing stress, and suicide has become a bigger issue for these communities.

FirstLink also has a 24-hour follow-up program for people who recently have been discharged from a hospital or public health facility.

Follow-up calls have been on the rise as well, increasing from 1,150 in 2016 to more than 4,800 in 2017.

FirstLink provides 24-hour crisis intervention and can also direct people to services such as food assistance, support groups and emergency safe shelters.

FirstLink’s number is 211. Folks can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through the 211 number or at 1-800-273-TALK.