On plain white tees the words “No One Can Replace You” is a message that in less than a week has raised $2,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
After losing five friends to suicide in the past four years, friends Sean Kamstra, 21, and Isaac Girard, 20, thought the first campaign to come from their clothing line 701 should advocate for suicide prevention and try break the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“I’m so incredibly proud of them for really just getting this idea and running with it,” said AFSP Dakota-area director Samantha Bruers.
Within four days, the duo turned the idea of “No One Can Replace You” into reality. Kamstra said the words — a slogan whose first letters spell out “NO CRY” when stacked on top of each other — were inspired by the rapper Logic, who earlier this year released the song “1-800-273-8255,” the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Kamstra, a senior studying graphic design at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, texted Girard, a junior and business major at North Dakota State University, on a Thursday night about the idea, and the next morning they were at a business meeting in Detroit Lakes, Minn.
The two shared the campaign with Lakeshirts and Blue 84 co-owner Mark Fritz, who didn’t hesitate to make sample products that Friday for the guys to start promoting. Fritz told 701 founders he would donate the first 100 shirts and sell the rest at a discounted wholesale price.
“I think it’s admirable they’re doing something to make a positive impact in helping get more awareness around that subject. [Suicide] cuts across all socioeconomics. It can happen to any family,” Fritz said. “It’s tough and it’s been growing at an alarming rate.”
Suicide is the ninth-leading cause of death in Minnesota and North Dakota, and the second-leading cause for those ages 15 to 34, according to AFSP. On average, someone dies by suicide every 12 hours in Minnesota and every 71 hours in North Dakota.
The Red River Regional Dispatch Center has received nearly 100 suicide calls this September and so far this year there’s been more than 1,000 suicide calls, with each month averaging about 114.
AFSP has a goal of reducing the annual suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025.
“Once we achieve that goal, that’s thousands of lives saved,” Bruers said.
She said she was honored the foundation was selected as the recipient of campaign proceeds because donations make educational programming, advocacy and lobbying about mental health and suicide prevention possible.
“It’s important to know that suicide is a complex mental health issue,” she said. “[But] we want people to talk about it just like you talk about cancer and diabetes. We want to bring the issues of mental health into the light.”
Girard said since launching the campaign, people have been reaching out on social media sharing their personal stories of fighting mental illness. “There’s been points in our lives when we were really low,” he said. “Everyone’s been affected by mental illness.”
The 701 founders said the T-shirt campaign is just the beginning, but it’s a good place to start.
“The best thing you can do with mental illness is just talk to somebody,” Kamstra said. “And if our shirts can spark any conversation that could save a life, we did exactly what we set out to accomplish.”
More than 44,000 Americans die by suicide each year.
On average, there are 121 suicides per day.
In Minnesota, someone dies by suicide every 12 hours on average.
In North Dakota, someone dies by suicide every 71 hours on average.
Suicide is the ninth-leading cause of death in Minnesota and North Dakota.
Suicide in both states is the second-leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 34.
Statistics provided by The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The Red River Regional Dispatch Center has received more than 1,000 suicide calls this year. So far in September there have been nearly 100 calls.
August — 116
July — 114
June — 114
May — 122
April — 130
March — 110
February — 107
January — 104
If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)