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Web Link Among Young Suicide Victims?

Police in a small British town are investigating a series of suicides of young people, and whether the Internet was some sort of common communications denominator in any of the deaths.

What's certain is that something tragic and mysterious is going on in Bridgend, Wales, reports CBS News correspondent Mark, Phillips.

For reasons that are baffling experts, Bridgend has become the center of the apparent cluster of suicides among young people.

First, says Phillips, there were seven victims, all aged between 17 and 27. All hanged themselves over the past year. Each knew at least one other person in the group.

Now, the town's coroner has revealed another six recent suicides, bringing the total to thirteen.

There was almost a 14th victim, but her parents found her hanging, barely alive, and were able to save her.

But they say she can't remember trying suicide, or why she did.

The Internet, Phillips observes, particularly tribute sites on which people place eulogies to the dead, has emerged as a suspect in these cases. Some of the victims posted messages before killing themselves. The link isn't clear, but it worries experts.

And, according to London's "Sunday Times," at least three of the victims "all shared friends on Bebo," a popular social networking Web site in the United Kingdom.

Madeleine Moon, a local member of Parliament, says, "What's alarming (is) ... there are chat rooms (not just on Bebo) that people go into to talk about suicide and to contemplate suicide."

Still, authorities in Wales say there's no clear connection among the cases.

Schools and parents in Bridgend have been put on suicide watch. Counseling is being offered.

But, notes Phillips, nobody is exactly sure what causes or signs they're looking for.

On The Early Show Monday, clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere told co-anchor Julie Chen, "We've seen this before. It's called suicide contagion or suicide clusters. ... What they share in common is that these are young people who are actually vulnerable to suicide. They all come from the same geographical area, though we know there are no boundaries because of the Internet. And the media, but most importantly, what we've seen in this particular case, many of these kids have died by hanging. So, they do know one another or know of one another, and they do communicate on these sites.

"Suicide is the third leading cause of death with teens," Gardere continued. "And therefore, what we see, the first teen who commits suicide almost serves as a role model for other kids. In other words, they open up this book for them that these other kids can now latch onto. And if they're having depression or other mental health issues, then they can choose this inappropriate way of venting a lot of their anger and their depression.

" ... A lot of these kids are putting entries in before they die. So certainly parents should know what's going on on these Web sites. But it's also telling me kids are talking to one another and not talking to their parents. And in many ways, they're glorifying their suicides, getting attention in death that they were not getting in life. So parents, wake up. Smell the coffee. Your kids need to speak to you. There is an epidemic as far as depression and other psychological issues with our teens, and we need to address it.

"I think," Gardere concluded, "certain parents should know what their kids are doing on the websites, and if their kids are having some sociological, some psychological issues, talk to them and make sure that there's some sort of intervention."