Churches using sign campaign to address local suicides

Signs around some area towns are responding to an ongoing county concern — suicide.

“You are NOT ALONE” reads a sign in a Winfield yard, “If you or someone you know is in Crisis and needs someone to talk to, call 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.”

The numbers are for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Crisis Line.

The signs are appearing in Winfield, Atlanta, Cambridge and Burden after a difficult year for self-inflicted deaths in Cowley County, especially for teens and young adults.

At least four suicides in that category occurred in 2019, well above the norm, and that does not include another young man from nearby Geuda Springs in Sumner County who shot himself.

“We were so concerned about all the suicides in the county,” said Wilma Anglemyer, a member of Tisdale United Methodist Church, whose members came up with the idea of the signs in the early fall.

Lindsay Chriss, also of Tisdale, came up with the idea of the signs and the six statements on them, one each per sign with the Lifeline contact numbers.

Besides “You are not alone,” the signs read:

• You are worthy of love.

• Your life has value beyond measure.

• You say: I can’t forgive myself; God says: I forgive you (Romans 8-1).

• You say: Nobody loves me; God says I love you (John 3:16).

• You say: I feel all alone; God says: I will never leave you.

Tisdale members spoke with other members of the Sunflower Parish — Grandview, Prairie View and Burden United Methodist churches — and those churches agreed to pay for half the cost of the signs while Tisdale paid for the other half.

The signs took a while to get made, Anglemeyer said, so they did not start putting them out until later in the fall.

“We put them in different places in Winfield, and people from other churches put them in Atlanta and Burden and Cambridge,” Anglemeyer said.

She said she has four different ones in her yard on east U.S. 160 Highway so they can be easily seen from the road.

“We see people slow down to read them,” she said.

Roger Moon’s yard in Winfield has a “You are not alone” sign. Moon said he’s had different responses to it. Some people who have suicidal relatives have told him how much they appreciate the sign.

But one man who drives by it often appears angry about it.

“I am alone,” he told Moon.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is one way for people to talk with someone about their concerns. Another is Four County Mental Health’s 1 (800) 499-1748 crisis services hotline, which is available 24/7 for people in Cowley, Montgomery, Wilson, Elk and Chautauqua counties.

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