The Perry Local School District held a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss student suicides that have occurred within the district.
Six current and former district students have taken their lives since the start of the school year. The most recent occurred this week, prompting concern among the community.
“I’m a father of 5, most importantly,” Perry Superintendent Scott Beatty said. “That’s what’s making the discussion of this topic very, very difficult. To try to say something to comfort in times like this is almost impossible. The most important thing is to let people know that you're here for them."
Police Chief Mike Pomesky said investigations into each case have led to multiple factors. He said bullying has not been one of those factors.
Pomesky also said there are multiple environmental factors in the investigations and police are working to identify any commonalities between the students.
“We don’t have any link established to each suicide,” Pomesky said.
“We want to stop what’s going on with our young people,” counselor Margaret Delillo-Storey added. “It’s affecting and hurting us as much as the rest of the community.”
Carol Vesely, of the county Crisis Intervention and Recovery Center, noted that suicide is not instigated by one particular event. She said the two major triggers for suicide are major family conflict and breakup of a relationship.
Vesely explained the concept of suicide contagion.
"We're looking at this as a contagion," Vesley said. "...Sometimes, when a famous person dies, I'm old enough to remember Kurt Cobain's suicide, there was a fear throughout the country that young people would follow him. Sometimes, it's because a person belongs to a group."
She added that the influence to teens can also be traced to a show such as "13 Reasons Why" where there is no context or discussion. Vesley encourages parents and guardians to discuss suicide with their children.
Some parents say they will be looking for signs, such as behavior changes and withdrawing.
Others are asking their kids if they have ever had suicidal thoughts. Toni Petterson has three children in Perry Schools and said she is encouraging hers to keep a closer eye on classmates.
“I just keep telling my kids ‘all you have to do is get through school. If you have a hard time, speak up,’” she said.
Petterson believes there could also be a benefit to having a celebrity such as LeBron James speak to the school and encourage students.
Perry administrators say they do believe their suicide numbers might have been even higher by now had the community not been talking about the problem all along.
The district canceled school Friday as a result of the weather, though counselors were made available to students and staff.
WATCH: See the full press conference at Perry Local School District in the player below