Igniting Hope: Local ministries, leaders coming together to mark Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

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Suicide attempt survivor, speaker and founder of the online support group “Suicide Prevention and God’s Helpers” Korey Burris (contributed)

CULLMAN – September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month; Monday, Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day; and Sept. 10-16 is National Suicide Prevention Week.  Hanceville-based Cook Ministries and Preventive Action of Cullman (PAC), along with Melita-Kingdom Cove and W.A.R. Recovery of Piedmont are coming together in the days between now and then to promote awareness in the Cullman area.

Schedule of events

  • Wednesday, Sept. 5 – Suicide attempt survivor, speaker and founder of the online support group “Suicide Prevention and God’s Helpers” Korey Burris will be speaking at Bethlehem United Methodist Church, 2830 County Road 216 in Hanceville at 6 p.m.
  • Thursday Sept. 6 – Burris and Karen Cook of Cook Ministries will be on Birmingham’s WDJC 93.7 FM at 7 a.m. On Thursday evening, Burris will be with Daryl "Big D" Nethery on LIVE 95.5 FM in Cullman at 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 7 – Ministry representatives will be at the Cullman County Courthouse starting at 9 a.m.  The Leadership Prayer event will be at 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 8 – Burris will speak at the Celebrate Recovery meeting at New Liberty Tabernacle of Praise in Gadsden at 6:15 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 9 – Burris will speak at Hanceville Assembly of God, 402 Shady Lane Dr. SW.  The service starts at 10 a.m. Burris scheduled to speak around 11:30.
  • On Monday, Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, Cook Ministries encourages people to light a candle in a window in their homes to remember those lost to suicide and honor their loved ones who lived through the loss.

Awareness day at Cullman County Courthouse

According to a notice posted online by Cook:

“We will be set up inside Cullman County Courthouse at 9 a.m. passing out pamphlets, talking to people, maybe doing some Facebook live videos until they close at 4:30 – just hanging out, meeting folks and talking to whoever the Lord puts in our path that day and then that evening we will set up on the outside front steps of the courthouse for LEADERSHIP PRAYER event to start at 6 p.m.”

Speakers scheduled for the event include Cook, Burris, Justin Lynch of PAC and Church 212, and motivational speaker/author Cliff Powell.  Numerous officials and local leaders are expected to attend the prayer service as duties allow, along with representatives of various organizations, including:

  • Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry
  • Cullman County Coroner Jeremy Kilpatrick
  • Pastor and 2018 gubernatorial candidate James Fields
  • Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail
  • Cullman County Commissioner Garry Marchman
  • Cullman County EMA Director Phyllis Little
  • Cullman County Community Development Commissioner Josh Speakman
  • Albert Pugh of The Foundry
  • Dr. Howard Rodgers of The Delta Center
  • TeeJay Wilson of Fresh Start Recovery
  • Tommie Sanders of WellStone/Cullman Area Mental Health Authority  
  • Bethlehem United Methodist Church Pastor Dan Cobb
  • Oktoberfest’s Col. Johann Cullmann
  • Saving Forgotten Warriors
  • Victim Services of Cullman

Cook wrote, “So we have lots of things going on this coming week – we sure hope you can come out and meet Korey, welcome him to Alabama and let's see what we can do to help someone struggling!  See you there!!”

A move in the right direction

The last two decades have seen a roughly 25 percent increase in death by suicide across the U.S.  After a marked rise in incidents last year in Cullman County, numerous local churches, civic groups and others began forming support groups and holding awareness events across the county.

At an awareness event last fall, Karma in Cullman Founder Rachel Bryant recalled seeing the pain in her own child’s eyes after the loss of a friend, and told The Tribune, “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.”

Although even one loss is too many, the situation in Cullman County seems to be improving, with the current number of deaths by suicide at just over one third of the level at this time last year.  

For help now

Learn more about the warning signs of self-harm from Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) at https://save.org/about-suicide/warning-signs-risk-factors-protective-factors/.

If someone you care about seems to be showing 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 from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (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.

Resources

Call:

  • 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

Text:

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

Online:

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) – https://afsp.org
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) – http://www.save.org

Longer-term care and counseling in the Cullman area:

  • Wellstone Behavioral Health – 256-533-1970, https://www.wellstone.com/
  • Pathways Professional Counseling (faith-based) – 1-866-991-6864 or 256-737-9918,  www.pathwaysprofessional.org
  • New Beginnings Counseling – 256-739-1455, www.newbeginningscullman.com

These are fee-based services, insurance not required.

For more on Korey Burris and his work, visit Suicide Prevention and God’s Helpers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/122434621688015/.

For more on Preventive Action of Cullman, see our story www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2018/03/16/preventive-action-cullman-increasing-awareness-mental-health-issues-resources and visit www.facebook.com/CullmanIntervention.

For more on Cook Ministries, visit www.facebook.com/CookMinistries/.

For more on Friday’s event at the courthouse, visit www.facebook.com/events/753771405012220/.

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