Igniting Hope: Local ministries, leaders come together for prayer service to start National Suicide Prevention Week

W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune

Cook Ministries Director Karen Cook and suicide attempt survivor Korey Burris, the special guest speaker at Friday evening’s leadership prayer event at the Cullman County Courthouse (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN – On Friday evening, Hanceville-based Cook Ministries and Preventive Action of Cullman (PAC) held a special event at the Cullman County Courthouse to pray for families who have lost someone to suicide and those suffering from self-destructive mental illness and to promote awareness in the Cullman area.  Monday, Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day and the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week.

Speakers at the event included Cook Ministries Director Karen Cook, Justin Lynch of PAC and Church 212 and motivational speaker/author Cliff Powell.  Their special guest and speaker was suicide attempt survivor Korey Burris.

During the day on Friday, Cook, Burris and other volunteers were inside the courthouse sharing information and encouragement, passing out pamphlets, and talking to people, as Cook described, “just hanging out, meeting folks and talking to whoever the Lord puts in our path.”  

The Tribune spoke with Burris who, after facing a childhood of abuse, attempted suicide in 1994, following a friend who had done the same.  After surviving his attempt, said Burris, “I felt like a complete failure, but I knew God saved me for a reason. I said, ‘One day I’ll figure it out.  I’ll just keep going and do the best I can, you know, because apparently I’m not just going to die.’”

After accidents and a medical issue made him unable to work his regular job a decade later, Burris began questioning again.

“I kind of got frustrated and I told God, kind of angrily, ‘Why am I here?’” said Burris.  “And He told me to help with suicides. And I was kind of dumbfounded and thought, ‘Nah,’ but after a week of confirmations–and that’s all I could hear in my head, was ‘Help people,’–I decided to do it.  And man, He’s blessed me so much just by obeying Him and just actually letting Him do this. You know, I just make myself available and He works through me.”

Burris said he’s constantly involved in suicide prevention through personal appearances, phone calls and social media.

“It’s saving lives,” said Burris.  “People are waking up, you know, but we’ve got to do more.  We’ve got to keep pushing every day, every day, to break the (stigma), to keep people from sweeping it under the rug, you know, bring it out into the light.  And the more we talk about it and get it out there, the more people will be willing to help and the more people can be saved. And the ultimate goal is to help as many people as possible.  We can’t save them all, but we can do the best we can; we can try.”

Numerous local officials, community leaders and organizational representatives attended Friday evening’s prayer event, including:

  • Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry
  • Cullman County Coroner Jeremy Kilpatrick
  • Pastor and 2018 gubernatorial candidate James Fields
  • Cullman County EMA Director Phyllis Little
  • Cullman County Community Corrections Diversion Officer Jennifer Chafin
  • Cullman Police Sgt. Cindy Rohrscheib
  • Cullman County Community Development Commissioner Josh Speakman
  • Fresh Start Recovery
  • Victim Services of Cullman

Before the meeting started, Lynch told the Tribune, “What our main objective on doing this is, for one, to spread awareness of how big of an issue suicide and depression is, but also not only to let people know there are resources in Cullman–like me or anybody on our team, as far as PAC, we’re not certified therapists, we’re not counselors–but what our goal is, is to, the people that contact us, to get them in touch with those people, the correct people that they need to get in touch with, and also share the love of Christ with them.

“Doing this event is, hopefully, going to bring more awareness of depression and suicide, since September is Suicide Awareness Month, because I used to think, trying to figure out how good awareness does, as far as doing events like this and things.  But that was before I really started doing research and really got into anything. And then, whenever I started doing research myself, I realized, man, it is a big issue.

“One thing I tell our guys, and I always say is, if you don’t know there’s a problem, you can’t be part of the solution.  Once I found out there was a problem, then I wanted to work, some way, to be part of a solution. So my only hope for being a part of this event and doing this is, one, obviously to bring awareness about suicide, but two, hopefully that either somebody that reads it in the paper or watches it on Facebook, or is here today, that they realize that there are a group of people that they can talk to, that can help them and will be with them to get the help that they need, also.”

To Burris The Tribune posed the question: What’s the first thing you’d say to a young person who’s showing self-destructive signs?

“First, I would say that God loves them.  And the second thing is that God never puts anything on us that we can’t handle.  He does not. Even though we think we can’t handle it, He knows we can. He knows the strength that we have, and we don’t know our own strength.  And the last one is ‘I can do all things through Christ’–not some things, all things–’who strengthens me.’”

More events this weekend

  • Saturday, Sept. 8 – Karma in Cullman will hold its second annual Walk of Hope suicide awareness event at Depot Park, starting at 3 p.m.  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 is 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.

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-fac….

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.



  • 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) – 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-inc… and visit www.facebook.com/CullmanIntervention.

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

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