ANADARKO, Okla. - A small Oklahoma community is grieving after a wave of suicides.
Within a short time, four young people have taken their own lives in Anadarko.
“I knew every single one of them. I taught every single one of them or I was their principal and all of them are loved and they didn't have to choose the course,” said Lynn Bellamy.
For 25 years, Lynn Bellamy worked in the Anadarko school district.
He says it is unbearable to hear that four young people, between the ages of 22-years-old and 11-years-old, took their own lives.
“Just seems to be like it's spreading and kids are feeling like this is a way to make it better,” he said.
Bellamy is now a pastor at First Baptist Church, where the funeral for the 11-year-old will take place.
"You have young people who are hurt and they feel hopeless, helpless, but there are people who love them. Families, this community loves them,” he said.
It's a message the entire community is standing behind.
“I just really want us to get the word out to the community that that is not a solution. It is a permanent fix to a temporary problem,” said Chief Jason Smith with the Anadarko Police Department. “It has brought us to our knees.”
His department has seen firsthand the devastation of what is being called an epidemic in their town.
“We are looking at all possible causes but it’s not so easy to put a finger on it and say this person was bullied, it just not that easy,” said Smith.
For now, city leaders are focusing on raising awareness and working with state resources.
“The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health is going to offer training in the public school. They have material that talks about how we deal with this,” said Kenneth Corn, City Manager.
It's free training for teachers, students, and parents.
The city is also focusing on outreach by placing flyers all around town, pushing a message of hope and support.
“They see it as an option and it's not an option. It's the end. It's final. All that's left is the hurt and suffering of the family and friends,” said Pastor Bellamy.
On Wednesday morning, police took a child into protective custody from school because staff believed he was trying to harm himself.
In response to these suicides, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health is setting up “care stations.”
A community “care station” will be open for everyone on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21.
Services will be available at The Physicians Hospital in Anadarko between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m. and again from 5 to 8 p.m.
No appointment is necessary.
Services are available for anyone impacted by the recent events, those who are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm or persons seeking help for mental health or substance abuse concerns.
Assistance is available for those unable to access the 'care station' by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
This is a toll-free number staffed 24-hours a day by caring professionals, available every day of the week.