RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - The teenage years should be fun and exciting, not tragic. Just three weeks ago a Richmond Hill High School freshman took her own life.
Suicide experts say since then they have seen more and more children in our area admitting to thoughts of suicide.
One suicide can be a trigger for other suicides attempts or tendencies.
Suicide is not an easy topic for anyone. Experts say it's time for parents to face their fears and accept reality. Teen suicide is on the rise across the country and here at home.
Sydney Sanders, 14, took her life earlier this month. Many kids, whether they knew her, or not, are talking about her and what she did in both healthy, and unhealthy, ways.
"We see signs of depression. We do see pods or epidemics of suicide attempts," Dr. Micah Reigner told WTOC.
It's the frightening reality of teen suicide. In this case, it is the aftermath of the death of Sydney Sanders.
"There have been several who have come to my office who mentioned her, though I didn't know her, they saw signs of depression in themselves and wanted to seek help," Reigner said.
Dr. Reigner is a pediatrician and teen suicide expert and says one teen suicide can trigger others in a community, for various reasons from attention to actual depression.
"You may see copy cats in that area," Reigner said. "A lot of kids heard about this and said they saw the light. It might be something I want to do. Teenagers are very impressionable."
Many she saw were from Richmond Hill, where Sydney lived. Dr. Reigner says the first thing you need to do with your children is pay attention to every aspect of their lives.
"Know your child. Know what they are doing. Know they're friends, who they are talking to, know their Facebook friends, be their friends on Facebook because the earliest sign to notice is a change in your child," she said.
For Sydney's family, their first sign was her first attempt to take her life back in February on Valentine's Day.
"You get your child help immediately, at the first sign, first talk of suicide or a previous attempt, which is a huge red flag. Get them help and at first they will be resistant. Act on your right as parents, even if against their will, it is hugely important," Reigner said. "Any little sign, even if you think you are making too big a deal of this, you never can make too big a deal of it."
Those who knew sydney best tried to explain her death to their kids.
"It's hard to understand and it is hard to explain to a child," Jana Books told WTOC. "We want all the kids in Richmond Hill who are struggling or having these thoughts, we want help for them."
"I think there is a lot of bullying that goes on," Books added.
"They don't want to tell us because they don't want us to know there is something wrong," Elaine Carter said.
Family friends, like Books and Carter, say bullying, in some form, may have played a part in Sydney Sanders reasons for suicide.
"There had been some issues and rumors. I think bullying comes in different forms," Carter said. "It's more of a jealousy type thing. I don't know the details of how it all became so ugly."
"Bullying tends to make someone question their self worth," Reigner said.
Reigner says victims of bullying, and surprisingly the bullies themselves, are often at a high risk of suicide. She says if friends know something a parent doesn't, they need to speak up.
She also urges, depending on their grief and comfort, victims of suicide, like family members, to speak out about the long term effect suicide has on a family, something a teenager, impulsive and depressed, may not think about .
"You are not betraying their trust by telling people you are seeing these signs of depression and your friend may be interested in suicide," Reigner said. "It would be hugely helpful for the mother of Sydney to speak out about how scarred the family is from the act so they can see both sides of that."
Sydney Sander's mother, Laura Lane, is speaking out. Thursday night on THE News at 6, Lane and her daughter Caleigh, will break their silence about how 14 year-old Sydney Sanders, a popular and pretty athlete and homecoming queen, took her life and the impact her tragic action had on their family.
"I keep waiting for her to walk through the door at 3pm and say, madre, take me to eat or, Madre, take me to Walgreen's.," Lane told WTOC. "I know I have to stay strong for my other child and I know I will see her again someday."
If you think about suicide, or suspect someone you know or love is depressed and contemplating suicide, there is help. Immediately consult a physician. There are also suicide help lines, with 24 hour service. Those numbers are 1-800.999.9999, 1-800.273.8255 and 1-800.273.HELP.
For more information, go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
The Sanders family has set up a foundation in Sydney's memory, and are raising money to build and promote a teen suicide help center in Richmond Hill. Donations can be made to the Sydney Sanders Memorial Fund.
On Thursday night, from 5 to 10 p.m., Love's Seafood will be holding a special Thursday evening sunset. They will be donating a portion of their proceeds to the fund, as well as accepting donations.