The funeral of the 17th suicide victim in South Wales Monday became an occasion for some more soul-searching in the community, but her family chose to blame the media for "sensational coverage."
Jenna Parry, 16, was the 17th young person suspected to have killed themselves in the county around Bridgend, in South Wales, over the past 14 months.
AdvertisementA few hours from her funeral, her parents urged other youngsters not to harm themselves with the poignant message: "Let our butterfly be the last to fly away."
Jenna was found hanging from a tree in woods in her home village of Cefn Cribbwr, five miles from the town of Bridgend, on February 17.
Another funeral to take place Monday was 20-year-old Kelly Stephenson's. She is thought to have taken her own life while on holiday in Kent last month.
Kelly's 15-year-old cousin Nathaniel Pritchard, who lived on the same Bridgend street as she, had died within hours of her death and his funeral was held at the same crematorium Friday last.
Initially police denied there was any evidence linking the string of deaths, but they now wonder whether the young people in the town now saw killing themselves as a way of dealing with their problems. Assistant Chief Constable David Morris said: "These are vulnerable young people. Taking one's own life may be becoming an acceptable option to young people for issues that they are facing."
Schoolchildren will now be encouraged to talk openly about their problems and to confront the consequences of suicide.
"Clearly the number of suicides is statistically unusual for that area. But it is worth remembering that there may be lots of reasons for that," Joe Ferns of the Samaritans charity said. "It might be that we are seeing a cluster effect in the sense that one suicide is having an influence on future suicides, or it may be that this is a statistical anomaly of some sort."
At the same time police complained about "sensational" media reporting adding to the problems facing the Bridgend area and called for more accurate coverage of the "cluster" of suicides. He singled out for his harshest criticism newspaper reports linking the deaths to some sort of Internet cult.
Police did say that many of the victims had used a social networking Web site that was popular with young Britons.
Parents of Nathaniel Pritchard too felt their son might may have been influenced by media reports that glamorized earlier suicides, and called for press restraint.
"We feel media coverage could trigger other young people, who are already vulnerable and feeling low, into attempting to take their own lives," Sharon Pritchard said.
In a statement released through South Wales Police, Jenna Parry's family said: "Jenna was a normal teenager. She had her ups and downs.
"She had an amazing smile that would light up a room. She was loved so much by her family and everyone who knew her.
"We are all devastated to have lost our little butterfly and miss her so much.
"Like the butterflies she loved, her life was short, but while in this world her beauty and smile brought joy to all that met her.
"Let our butterfly be the last to fly away."
The families of both young women asked media to stay away from the funerals.
An inquest into Jenna's death was opened and adjourned last month. Coroner Philip Walters heard the teenager had recently split up from her boyfriend, but was keen to rekindle the relationship.
He also opened an inquest into Nathaniel's death, where it was claimed the teenager told his ex-girlfriend he was going to kill himself after learning she had a new boyfriend.