Suicide Awareness town hall meeting held in light of increased number of suicides across Cullman County

Hannah Ward

CULLMAN – Mental Healthcare of Cullman hosted a town hall meeting at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday which brought to the community’s attention the escalation in the numbers of suicides in Cullman County.

Cullman County Coroner Jeremy Kilpatrick reported that suicides in Cullman County have increased since last year, with the county now averaging about two suicides a month. According to Kilpatrick, there have been 13 suicides so far this year. With the population of Cullman County being only a little more than 80,000, that is sobering.

Mental Healthcare of Cullman’s goal is to educate the community. Clinical Director Richard Fallin said, “The town hall meetings are, most importantly, information dissemination. Getting the information out to the community. This is a topic that we don’t like to talk about, a topic that’s not easy to talk about it. So I think the more we do talk about it, the more we become comfortable with knowing the warning signs, knowing when people are hurting, the better it will be for our community as a whole.” Fallin has been working in mental healthcare for 12 years.

Karen Cook of Cook Ministries told her personal story of the way she has been affected by suicide. On Nov. 8, 2015 her brother, Johnny, took his own life. She was there for him, his whole family was there for him. Yet he made the decision.

Because of what happened with her brother, Cook is a constant supporter of others through Cooks Ministries. She works with the Cullman County Child Development Center, Hanceville Law Enforcement Youth Explorers, and is always an active advocate for the awareness of suicide.

Here are some suicide warning signs to watch for- F.A.C.T

F is for feelings – They feel hopelessness, out of control. There is guilt, shame, self-hatred. These are symptoms of depression.

A is for Actions – Sometimes people have an increase in drug and alcohol abuse; they do not want to feel the pain. They do not want to feel anything. Fallin says many times with students, there will be self-destructive writings, self-destructive music or possibly self-injurious behavior. Nightmares sometimes happen.

C is for Change – This is one of the riskier signs. This is a point when someone may be edging into suicide as a viable option. Attitudes or behaviors suddenly change. If they are grieving and it seems to be a very normal grieving process but then there is a specific change. Any of these changes in behavior- personality changes, over energetic, indecisive, unable to make decisions, being outgoing.

Fallin said, “We may not think of this as a sign of depression, but sometimes research shows when a person has decided ‘I’m going to do this,’ they have a sense of relief. So they will be more outgoing, in that last moments, those last few days.” It is a sudden period of improvement when they have peace about their decision to commit suicide. Oversleeping, under-sleeping, insomnia, loss of appetite, weight gain, loss of interest, loss of friendship. Maybe they used to have a hobby they really loved and they just stopped completely. Personal grooming sometimes suffers during these times of depression.

T is for threats – They will make suicidal statements, suicidal gestures.

If you know someone who struggles with thoughts of suicide or you struggle with them yourself, please call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

“Suicide is one of those things that affects all of us in different ways. We are expected to be the strong ones, we are expected to have all the answers. Two years ago my best friend committed suicide. Really the only thing that’s going to help prevent suicide is helping one another. It’s not going to be a Facebook campaign, it’s going to be one human being reaching out to another human being offering support in a time of need,” Fallin said. “A lot of people around us are hurting and we are so busy and so self-absorbed that we don’t ask our neighbor, ‘How are you doing today?’ you know we may ask, ‘How ya doin?’ but we don’t mean ‘How are YOU doing?’’’

You may not be familiar with know anyone who has struggled with thoughts of suicide, or it may be something that you have been personally touched by. Whatever the case, it happens and just listening can make a difference. Simply caring when you ask about a person. Sometimes it is the small things that make a difference, and sometimes those small things take a lot of work.

As members of society we need to know these things so we can be there for family, friends, coworkers and even complete strangers. Because that is what it will take to stop suicide; the love and time of another human being.

For help, contact Mental Healthcare of Cullman at 256-255-1020.

For more information about Cook Ministries, call 256-338-2340, email or visit


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