WEST MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - As suicide prevention month draws to a close, Ouachita Parish schools have a reason to think positively.
The district has been suicide free for two years. But it hasn't always been that way.
"Frankly...we don't want to lose one more...whether they're 8 or 80 years old," said Ouachita schools psychologist Flint Smith.
And that's how Smith summed up the community's reaction to the suicide contagion that happened in the 2010 to 2011 school year.
Six students took their lives; a frighteningly large number.
"We really don't know what causes a suicide contagion. It happens across the country and some research indicates that after the second or third one you have a 200 percent chance in having another one. So that really caught my attention," said Smith.
School officials called on the community to help spread awareness on why suicide happens and how to prevent it.
"Mental health is everyone's business and the community responded wonderfully to a very tragic time," said Smith.
To help identify warning signs and lift students spirits, two programs were implemented.
Area churches, and the community raised enough funds to bring Rachel's Challenge to the area, a presentation that encourages a chain reaction of kindness.
It was heard by students at 17 schools.
Also students heard a message of encouragement at the "Hope Now" rally put on by school leaders.
One of the biggest benefits to the programs implemented here in Ouachita Parish schools is the awareness in students is on the rise. Students are now able to go on their smart phones, and check Facebook and other media sites and they're able to identify when a friend is posting that they're hurting and they say they're more likely to report it.
"People are telling us when someone is hurting. We've had 400 threat assessments in the past two years. The students can just tip us off quicker by looking at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram," said Smith.
The district averages about one mental health risk assessment per day but Smith says with the special programs, more training for teachers and collaboration with the community, awareness is up and the number of teen suicides are down.