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Controversy Over ‘Suicidal Deer’ Crossing Signs Results in Petition in Iowa

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Woman claims signs are insensitive about mental illness issues in the U.S. 

Counties in many parts of the country have been turning to a strange gimmick in the last couple years to bring motorists’ attention to areas notorious for car/deer collisions.

Back in January, David Smith wrote about the “Suicidal Deer” crossing signs that were put up in Paxton County Illinois to address problems on a particularly bad stretch of road.

It turns out the idea is more widespread than you might think. And while some think the idea is funny, there are others that are not laughing. Such is the case in Mitchell County Iowa where one woman is on a mission to get the signs removed.

Christy Kessens started a petition on change.org that has gathered 325 supporters as of this writing. Kessens told the Globe Gazette she believes the sign is in poor taste because of how rampant suicide is in the United States.

“To me, it’s not just about a sign, it’s about changing the way that our society views mental illness,” she told the Globe Gazette. “I do get it, that it’s a sign; I see why people think it’s humorous or eye-catching, but there are mental disabilities and other illnesses that we would never think of making fun of.”

Kessens believes the signs make light of the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and mental illness in general. “It’s such a serious topic, and as an advocate you work so hard to change the way people see something, and then to have it be kind of made fun of is discouraging,” she said.

But not everyone feels the same about the signs, including the people who have the power to remove them.

“What you have is some individuals that have too much time on their hands, and they got solutions looking for a problem, and basically to try to relate a traffic sign that talks about deer to a personal tragedy, to me, is a stretch,” Mitchell County Supervisor Stan Walk said.

Walk believes the time Kessens and others are putting into the petition could be better used somewhere else. “You know in Black Hawk County, I am sure you have the same issues that we do in north Iowa, the heroin thing is an epidemic; there’s people there that need all kinds of help,” Walk said.

Not all Mitchell County Supervisors feel the same as Walk however. Shannon Paulus also felt the sign wasn’t appropriate.

“The deer aren’t making a conscious decision, they’re animals, so to use the adjective ‘suicidal’ is not appropriate. That is a human term, and there’s a lot of people that deal with losing someone every day that don’t need to be reminded of it,” Paulus told the Globe Gazette. “It’s just not appropriate.”

She has other reasons for her objection to the sign, including safety reasons. Apparently people are now stopping to take photos of the sign as they drive by.

Walk and fellow Supervisor Joel Voaklander did not second a motion to have the signs removed by Paulus back in late March.

There’s also the matter of costs when it comes to the signs. The county purchased eight of the signs at $80 each. But for now, things are at a standstill in this bizarre controversy.

What do you think? Should the signs be replaced?

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Controversy Over ‘Suicidal Deer’ Crossing Signs Results in Petition in Iowa