Cullman Co. sees frightening increase in suicides

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CULLMAN COUNTY – The Cullman area is suffering an onslaught of a terrifying tragedy.  According to Cullman County Coroner Jeremy L. Kilpatrick, the county saw six confirmed suicides in January, with a probable seventh on the first day of February.  At just more than 30 days into the year, Cullman County has almost reached the halfway point of the total number of suicides for all of 2016 (15).  Such a thing is tragic at any point in life, but the youngest 2017 victim was only 17 years old.

Since graphic or sensationalized accounts of one suicide may actually encourage other attempts, this article will not deal with any details of those recent incidents.  Instead, we have chosen to focus on preventing future events.  We have begun talking to some area professionals who deal with suicide face-to-face, and will be publishing their stories over the next week.

The Tribune began with Kilpatrick on Wednesday, and he shared a list, from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), of indicators that a person might be moving in a self-destructive direction.  Please note that behavior similar to one indicator, if it has been typical for a long time, is probably not a cause for concern.  For instance, if your child is naturally introverted and prefers a certain amount of alone time, he or she is probably normal; but a typically outgoing child who suddenly becomes shy and withdrawn may be in danger.  The key is often the sudden or unexpected nature of the appearance of warning signs. The ASFP indicators are categorized as follows:


If a person talks about:

  • *being a burden to others
  • *feeling trapped
  • *experiencing unbearable pain
  • *having no reason to live
  • *killing himself or herself


  • *increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • *looking for ways to kill oneself, such as online searches for materials or means
  • *acting recklessly
  • *withdrawing from activities
  • *isolating from family and friends
  • *sleeping too much or too little
  • *visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • *giving away prized possessions
  • * aggression

(Kilpatrick added to this list a sudden desire to create a will, or to set up another family member or friend as an administrator/legacy on one's social media account.)


  • *depression
  • *loss of interest
  • *rage
  • *irritability
  • *humiliation
  • *anxiety

(Kilpatrick added to this list sudden and extreme mood swings.)

The AFSP also lists risk factors: issues which statistically increase the chance that a person will contemplate or attempt suicide.  The existence of any of these factors in a person's life does not make them a danger to themselves or others; it simply means that their chances of considering self-destructive behavior may be higher than normal.

Health Factors

  • *mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline or antisocial personality disorder, conduct disorder, psychotic disorders or symptoms, anxiety disorders
  • *substance abuse disorders
  • *serious or chronic health condition and/or pain

Environmental Factors

  • *stressful life events–family death, divorce, job loss
  • *prolonged stress–harassment, bullying, relationship problems, unemployment
  • *access to lethal means, including firearms or drugs
  • *exposure to another person's suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide

Historical Factors

  • *previous suicide attempts
  • *family history of suicide attempts

If someone you care about begins to exhibit any of the above warning signs, especially when other risk factors exist, there are things you can do.  They may well need help, but they often need someone else to point them in the right direction.  Below is a five-step response, also from the AFSP.

  • Speak to the person privately.  Don't embarrass them.
  • Start the conversation.  Ask questions like
    • How are you doing?
    • You haven't seemed yourself lately.  Is everything okay?
    • Is anything bothering you?
  • Listen to what they have to say, and express concern and caring.
  • Ask if they are having thoughts of ending their life.
  • Encourage them to seek mental health services.

If you think the person is in danger, take them seriously and let them know you do.  Encourage them to get professional help.  Help them remove lethal means from ready access, and be prepared to take them to an emergency room or counselor.  Be a friend and stand by them; please don't wish them the best and go on your way.  In that moment, you may be the best hope they have; don't leave.  Don't hesitate to call 911 if you feel the danger is immediate.



  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Local – 256-734-4688 during the day, 256-737-2000 after hours
  • The Link of Cullman County (for faith-based help) – 256-775-0028
  • En Español – 1-800-628-9454
  • Veterans – 1-800-273-8255, press 1
  • LGBTQ – 1-866-488-7386


  • Crisis Text Line – text HELLO or START to 741-741
  • Deaf or hearing impaired – text to 1-800-273-8255
  • Veterans – text to 838255


  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) –
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) –

Longer-term care and counseling in the Cullman area:

  • Mental Healthcare of Cullman – 256-255-1020,
  • Pathways Professional Counseling (faith-based) – 1-866-991-6864,
  • New Beginnings Counseling – 256-739-1455,

These are fee-based services, insurance not required.

Kilpatrick describes suicide as "a permanent solution to a temporary problem."  It doesn't have to happen.  Help is available for those who reach out.  If you need it, reach out.  If you know someone who needs it, take their hand and help them reach out.


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