MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - It was the day after Christmas, and while thousands of Mankato residents were busy catching holiday sales or making returns, one man stood at the intersection of Madison Avenue and North Victory Drive. As he held a homemade sign offering a message of hope against suicide, hundreds of vehicles slowed to catch a glimpse.
“Last Sunday, I finished my sign. I had been working on it for a few days, my wife made the letters for me, cut them out, and then I started gluing them on, and she was in the middle of a winter project so I was like well I’m kind of bored. I’m just gonna go out and stand at the intersection for a couple hours and kind of see what happens,” he said. The man behind the sign, Loren Files, scouted out the busiest intersection in town and held his sign for all to see. “It’s just to basically get, you know, people thinking.”
Immediately, Files began to see how the message resonated with so many passersby. He added, “People brought me hot chocolate, honked, and waved, the video was taken, I would bet maybe 200 cars, I probably saw you know a thousand cars in those couple hours but 200 to 300 cars honked and waved, you know, lots of thumbs up things like that.”
That video, taken of Files with his sign, was posted to social media. Since last Sunday, it has received more than 205,000 views worldwide. Indicating Files’ powerful message extends far beyond Mankato.
“It’s kind of blown my mind how many good reactions I’ve gotten on that,” he stated. Files, a veteran whose family holds an extensive military history, knows all too well how mental illness can affect one’s wellbeing. He recently became an ambassador for Mission 22, an organization that serves to assist the veteran community and raise awareness about suicide. Twenty-two signifies the average number of veterans that lose their battle with PTSD each day.
He also stresses how mental illness isn’t limited to just veterans nor those formally diagnosed with certain conditions. And finding the right tools to help meet the needs of each struggling person is critical to their healing process. “There’s a lot of great organizations out there. Reach out to one of them. If they can’t help your specific need, your specific goal, things like that, you know they’ll probably have you know, know what the resources are to help you,” Files mentioned.
Files hopes to see his message of encouragement lead to a tangible difference in our communities. “Hopefully we’ll continue to spread the word and the message and start bringing that 22 number down for veterans and the number of suicides down in general for the general public,” he remarked.