It could have been a heartbreaking moment Wednesday morning, when Lynette Bettelyoun, a senior at Pine Ridge High School, started telling a story with, "The last suicide we had at our school ... ."

When she continued by revealing the subsequent suicide of a middle-school student, the tale seemed headed from dark to downright devastating.

But in the end, despite telling of another young person's needless death on the reservation, Lynette's message became one of help — and hope — as she told of how she and some friends then went to the middle school and consoled the students who were grieving there.

When she saw the suffering of the younger students, "I wanted to make them feel better and maybe save a life," she said.

That has become a dominant theme on the reservation.

Lynette was among about 80 people participating in the second day of a three-day effort to find ways to prevent suicides. Since late December, five young reservation residents have killed themselves, and members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe have been seeking solutions to prevent any more.

The event, at the Piya Wiconi multi-purpose building at the Oglala Lakota College near Kyle, ends today as students, parents and leaders of the tribe prepare a strategy to combat suicides.

In interviews, several students, including Lynette, opened up about the problems that they see may be pushing their schoolmates into despair.

Nizhoni Dee, an eighth-grader at Wolf Creek School, said much of the depression and many of the suicides can be explained by one word: "Bullying."

She said, "People are getting called names, like 'fat' and 'anorexic.'"

A preponderance of the bullying takes place on Facebook and other social media sites, the students said, meaning bullies remain anonymous while making their targets miserable.

"Really bad messages tell (the targets) they should just cut themselves," Nizhoni said. "They call them awful people who should just kill themselves."

And some try to, or do so.

Paris Sullivan, a Wolf Creek seventh-grader, said she knows a girl "who got a lot of messages and she tried to commit ..." Paris couldn't say that last word.

Nizhoni said that girl took pills but survived.

Shakyra Wilson, also a seventh-grader at Wolf Creek, gave this chilling assessment of why some young people try to commit suicide: "They want all that attention."

Statistics are even more chilling. In 2014, there were 162 suicide attempts on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, according to data gathered by authorities. The first three suicides in 2014 were of a 29-year-old man in April, a 26-year-old woman in August and a 20-year-old man in September.

But the trend of suicides carried out this winter makes 2015 look potentially much worse. A 14-year-old boy hanged himself on Dec. 17, then a 15-year-old girl hanged herself on Christmas Day.

There have been three subsequent suicides of teens and pre-teens — no details were available Wednesday — and many more attempts.

Some of the students are open about their intentions, their classmates say. Nizhoni said some use razors to cut themselves on the wrists or arms, spelling out the words, "Last breath."

Online bullying isn't the only reason for such despair, said Mariah Bravo, a senior at Pine Ridge. Many children, she said, "don't get enough attention and love from their parents," and she named two familiar causes: drugs and alcohol.

Iman Hummingbird, an eighth-grader at Pine Ridge, went further, saying some children are abused sexually.

Carrie Provost, also an eighth-grader, said many parents and other adults, including teachers, need to talk to students about how they feel. "Teachers need to make sure kids are OK," Carrie said.

Lynette Bettelyoun and Mariah Bravo are well-known athletes at Pine Ridge. They take seriously the reality that younger students look up to them.

"We became mentors to younger girls," Lynette said, adding that they see those girls "every day and give them hugs."

Students also are identifying their classmates and schoolmates who appear to be at risk.

"We're telling parents when we're really concerned," said Shakyra Wilson, a seventh-grader at Wolf Creek.

And when they pass along that warning, they receive their own reward.

"It makes you feel like a hero," Angelita Whitebutterfly, also a seventh-grader, said.

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