A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control shows that suicide rates across the nation have increased across the nation between 1999 and 2016.
No other state's suicide rate rose as sharply as North Dakota's. Alison Traynor is suicide prevention program director with the North Dakota Department of Health. She says North Dakota's suicide rate rose 58 percent in that 17 year time frame - in 2016 alone, 134 North Dakotans died by suicide. She says there are a number of factors surrounding the state that makes its populations more vulnerable to suicide, and they are factors shared by other rural states.
"Older folks tend to have higher rates, as do American Indian populations, as do veterans. And North Dakota has higher proportions of folks who have served in the military, tribal communities, and it makes us take a look at what is different here? We have the presence of trauma and historical trauma among those populations, but we also have less access to resources, mental health care, and health care in general. And if an individual attempts suicide or experiences any physical trauma - it's going to be a further distance for them to have to travel."
Traynor says there are a number of organizations in the state who work to prevent suicide. She says FirstLink, Connect Suicide Prevention, and Sources of Strength are all recipients of state funded grants totaling $300,000 to strengthen and support services to those seeking help. She says several tribal and community based programs also received support for suicide prevention and intervention efforts.
Traynor says if you suspect someone you know may be thinking of suicide - speak up. She says most patients are relieved to be asked and want to be able to talk and be listened to. The national suicide hotline is answered locally by FirstLink, and can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.