MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) - The Mandeville High School community is mourning the loss of two students who took their lives in separate gun-related incidents this week. St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston said he does not believe the two students were connected.
The first student took his life on Tuesday and the second on Wednesday night.
In a statement from St. Tammany Parish Public Schools, Superintendent Trey Folse he wrote:
"The St. Tammany Parish Public School System community is deeply saddened by the loss of two Mandeville High students. The district has brought in a team of School System counselors and other professionals from the community who are trained to help with the needs of students, parents and school personnel in times such as this. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family and friends of the students we lost as well as the entire Mandeville High community."
Today, Dr. Preston wants parents to take the opportunity to speak frankly with children and teens about suicide.
"Talk to your children and talk to them directly and ask them direct questions and don't be afraid to say, "Are you thinking of killing yourself?' You don't want to use a lot of euphemisms of, 'Are you going to hurt yourself?" because they may not think of it that way and again, there's really no science that supports the idea that you plant the idea of suicide into their head," Dr. Preston said.
As for students, their friends are often the first ones to realize something's off. Lynette Savoie, with St. Tammany Outreach for the Prevention of Suicide, said students can focus on key signs from their peers.
"Anything about 'I don't want to live, I'm not happy, there's nothing worth waking up for,' and then eating pattern changes, sleeping pattern changes, wanting to give your things away," Savoie said.
Dr. Preston said a destruction of social networks can also be a sign and said parents shouldn't brush off relationship problems or break-ups.
"That may seem like a trivial thing to us when their puppy love comes to an end, but it can be a devastating thing for a teenager," Dr. Preston said.
It's why St. Tammany Parish offers a 'Teen Text' line, which makes it easy for students to chat with someone who can help by texting 504-777-3273.
Dr. Preston said parents who feel the risk is too high should seek help and remove items that could make suicide easier.
"If they have guns in the house, secure them with gun locks or in a gun safe or take them out of the house. If they have pills in the house, secure them in a safe or something children can't get into," Dr. Preston said.
The Parish and outreach group offer several ways to seek help on your behalf or for someone else.
You can call 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also call 211 or 911 and text 504-777-3273 for the "Teen Text" line.
The St. Tammany Outreach for the Prevention of Suicide also holds training classes to help volunteers recognize the signs of suicide and how to deal with grief after a loss. If you'd like more information visit their website.