AURORA - In her family's eyes, 13-year-old Ashley Dunn was a happy 7th grader, who loved acting on stage and dancing.
"I want people to know that Ashley had unbelievable potential," Ashley's step-mother Carrie Laraia said.
That potential ended last week when Ashley took her own life, leaving her family devastated.
They are not alone; the Douglas County Coroner tells 9News that at least eight teenagers have taken their own lives in since September, four in the past two weeks alone. The Douglas County School District recently sent a letter to parents asking them to look for warning signs.
Laraia said she and Ashley were close, and that she never gave any indication anything was wrong.
"I don't know why she thought this was the only option," Laraia said. "Now, the only person who really knows is Ashley, and she can't answer that question for us."
Colorado's Safe2Tell program listens to students who are having potentially suicidal thoughts. Founding executive director Susan Payne said their work is taking on more urgency this year.
"This school year alone, our leading category of reports every month has been suicide interventions," Payne said.
Just in the past 24 hours, Safe2Tell has had several anonymous reports that have led to three suicide interventions.
"Most of the time, young people are more likely to open up to a friend, than they are to an adult or even their parent," Payne said.
Payne said in the case of suicide prevention, silence is not golden. Ashley's family wants to see change: an open dialogue about suicide and ways to prevent it, so other families won't have to go through what they are dealing with right now.
"I want people to take this and learn that they have to take care of each other, that they have to step in and step up and to honor her by going and living - and living well," Laraia said.
According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24. If you know of someone who may be thinking about suicide, Safe 2 Tell wants you to know it is okay to speak up.
Safe2Tell can be reached at 877-542-SAFE (7233)
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255 or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
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