NHS counsellors have been drafted into a village to offer advice to residents after seven people, including five teenagers, killed themselves in under two years.
The victims, who all either lived or had close connections with East Leake, Notts., committed suicide between February 2011 and October last year.
In one double tragedy, pals Chloe Hayden, 17, and Daniel Raynor, 18, were found hanged in their bedrooms within a week of each other in 2011.
The last victim, Jamie Johnson, 19, killed himself on a family holiday in Turkey last October after struggling to get over the death of friend Louis Way, 19, who hanged himself seven months earlier.
Jamie’s grief-stricken mother Penny, 39, who runs the village pub, has set up a self-help charity called the Tomorrow Project, in a bid to stop a “suicide contagion” effect sweeping the community.
NHS Nottinghamshire County is also set to fund therapy sessions in the village for teenagers and middle-aged men who are most prone to suicide.
Penny, who has converted the back room of her pub into a drop-in centre for worried residents, said: “I don’t want Jamie’s death to be in vain.
“People are worried there could be more deaths and we have to do everything we can.
“The Tomorrow Project is aimed at trying to support young people through difficult times in their lives.”
The spiral of tragedies started in the village of Chilwell, near East Leake on February 27, 2011 when talented singer Chloe Hayden was found dead in her bedroom.
Just a week later her best friend, Daniel Raynor, 18, who was from East Leake, hanged himself in his home.
At their inquests, Nottinghamshire Coroner Dr Nigel Chapman was so alarmed he called for the police to investigate the deaths to prevent a “cluster” of copy-cat suicides.
But on January 9 last year Louis Way, who had gone to the same school as Daniel, was found dead at his home in East Leake.
The promising footballer, who “lived for sport” had hanged himself.
Just a few months later in August, another teenage girl in the village was found dead and last October Louis’ best friend Jamie Johnson killed himself on holiday.
According to charity Harmless, a teacher on placement at the local school gassed himself and another middle-aged man from the village also committed suicide.
Caroline Roe, a director of Harmless which is leading the Tomorrow Project, said: “The suicide rate for the area is around 1,200 per cent the national average so we are trying to engage people and encourage people, of all ages, to talk about their concerns.
“What happens is that people can be affected by behaviours in people living in their communities and in this situation there is a risk of a suicide contagion.”
Louis’s sister, Natalie Way, 24, said: “I think about Louis every day, nothing can take away the pain.
“I remember my dad telling me what happened and I just didn’t believe it; I went numb.
“Young men sometimes bottle up a lot of things and often don’t want to talk to anyone. We need to try and change this.”
Mum Penny and dad John, both 39, have set up the Tomorrow Project which is affiliated with the Harmless charity.
The couple also have two other sons, Ross, 16, and John, 10.
The family are still waiting for a full inquest to take place into Jamie’s death.
Penny said: “Jamie was best friends with Louis and was with him the night he died.
“They’d been in the pub for a couple of drinks on a Sunday night and when they’d left the pub, Jamie said to Louis ‘see you tomorrow mate’ and that was the last time he saw him.
“The next day Jamie was walking to the bus stop to go to work when Louis’ brother rang him and told him he’d taken his own life.
“Jamie took it very badly and went into a deep depression for a while.
“He was withdrawn and drank a lot and on one occasion said he wanted to take his own life.
“I rang the NHS and a counsellor talked to Jamie on the phone but because he was over 18 they were powerless to do anything.
“Jamie told the NHS counsellor I was overreacting and he hadn’t meant what he had said.
“Jamie started to get his life back together and got a job as a kitchen porter in Corsica before working in Lineker’s bar in Cyprus.
“When he came home he seemed happy and was loving life.
“We went on holiday to Turkey and three days after we got there he went up to his hotel room and after three hours, his uncle went up and found him hanged.
“He didn’t leave a note and we might never know if he did it because of Louis’ death but what I strongly believe is that because of what happened to Louis, suicide became an option for Jamie.
“The Tomorrow Project is aimed at all people who want to talk about their concerns or for parents who want advice.
“If the Tomorrow Project had been around before Jamie died I might have been able to recognise some of the warning signs which I missed.”
A middle-aged man, who drank in the Nags Head pub which is run by Penny and John, hanged himself at the beginning of last year after struggling to come to terms with his wife’s death.
She had died of natural causes years earlier.
Penny said she hoped the Tomorrow Project, which was officially launched on Saturday when local residents raised £5,000 to fund counsellors and publicity material, is expected to go live in the next few weeks.
Charity Harmless hope to initially fund the project for six months.
The Tomorrow Project helpline for young people aged 19 to 24 is 07594 008356, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or for confidential support 24 hours a day call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.
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