Suicide walk remembers victims and those left behind


Participants attached photos of lost loved ones to a memorial placard by the Depot Park fountain. / W.C. Mann

CULLMAN – Any number of suicides should be considered too many, but the number in Cullman County is simply becoming unbearable.  After a total of 15 suicides in all of 2016, the county had already seen 20 by the midway point of this year.  At the most recent report in August, the total stood at 22.  A growing number of people are feeling a need to do something about it.

On Saturday afternoon, hundreds attended as local nonprofit Karma in Cullman hosted a suicide awareness walk at Depot Park.  Numerous local organizations came out to support the cause, including The Sanctuary at the Woodlands, Mental Healthcare of Cullman, Compton’s Veterinary Hospital, Celebrate Recovery of Cullman and Decatur, Walgreen’s, Wallace State Secular Union, Addison Veterinary Clinic, Realtor 1st, Greater Love Ministries, Exterior Expressions Tattoos and LifeSouth. 

The Cullman High School Chamber Choir and members of the Fairview High School FFA String Band performed.  Volunteers offered face painting and helped kids paint rocks.  Greater Love Ministries offered free Bibles.  At one booth, visitors could pin on ribbons in memory of lost loved ones, or in honor of survivors.  X-Ternal X-pressions displayed samples of tattoo designs based on the semicolon, which has become the logo of a suicide prevention project whose slogan is “My story isn’t over yet.” 

The walk was the brainchild of Karma Director Rachel Bryant, who told The Tribune, “After logging on (Facebook) and seeing article after article in the CullmanSense (The Cullman Tribune) and other news articles, and we were losing more and more Cullman County residents to suicide, I just realized that it was a heartbreaking epidemic that was going on.  Sadly, one of my children lost a very good friend, and the pain in their eyes…I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to take that pain away. 

“So my thought was, I can’t take that away, but maybe we can stop it from happening again.  That’s when I decided that we had to do something; we had to take a stand.  At the time, even if I had to take a stand alone, I was going to do it.  I realized I wasn’t going to stand alone.  There’s a lot of people who were prepared to stand with me.”

Bryant offered special thanks to event sponsors Addison Veterinary Clinic, The Sanctuary at the Woodlands, USA Healthcare, Creative Design and Screen Printing, Pepsi, Heritage Pharmacy, Talisa Shikle and the Facebook community she called the “Karma in Cullman family.”

If you knew a young person in danger right now, what would you say to them?

Bryant replied, “I would tell them, ‘I have that same thought; I have had them since I was 12.  I have had that bottle of pills in my hand; I have had that knife in my hand, and I have used them.’

“I would tell them, ‘You’re not alone.  God loves you, I love you.  It is a battle, but you don’t have to fight it alone.  There’s always someone else out there who’s also fighting.  All you’ve got to do is reach out, and you’re going to find somebody who’s going to reach back.”

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