In September 2008, four Douglas County teenagers took their own lives within a week, and all four incidents were unrelated.

The events of what happened that week rocked the community and made headlines.

Then, more tragedy. In 2011, six teens took their lives in the county.

In 2012, seven more.

But a concerted effort by the school district, sheriff's office and other organizations is making a big difference in reducing the rate of teen suicides in Douglas County. So far this year, there hasn't been a single teenager who has taken his or her life, according to Douglas County Coroner Lora Thomas.

Suicide rates can fluctuate year to year and need to be measured over time, officials said, so there's caution along with celebration.

But those involved with the prevention effort are nonetheless relieved that the number of suicides is nonexistent so far this year.

"You really have to look at a pattern over a large period of time," said Jarrod Hindman, director of the Office of Suicide Prevention for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "With that said, I would argue Douglas County is doing a phenomenal job with suicide prevention efforts."

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has partnered with the local school district to create the Youth Education and Safety in Schools, or YESS, initiative. Part of that is a Text-A-Tip program that allows students to anonymously text in tips on a fellow classmate they believe might be suicidal.

So far, the texting effort is being credited with helping save the lives of 13 students who had thoughts of suicide since its inception in 2009, said Phyllis Harvey, coordinator for the YESS program.

Once a tip is received, the school resource officer talks to the student and school mental health professionals, and parents are also brought on board.

Some schools in the Douglas County School District offer a program called "Signs of Suicide" that teaches students how to recognize suicide warning signs, how to ask questions when they encounter someone with those thoughts and how to get help.

"Kids have a lot of pressure with school and college and friends and bullying and different things that might be going on in their lives," Harvey said. "It could be anything."

Another part of the continued suicide-prevention effort in Douglas County is based in educating parents and other adults who work with children.

Sheri Cole is the chairwoman of the Colorado chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She became involved in suicide prevention when her son, David, took his own life in 2009. It was only after he died that her son's friends realized that David showed some warning signs — and that some of the friends also were struggling, Cole said.

The year after her son's death, Cole hosted a walk to bring awareness to suicide prevention. This year's walk is scheduled for Sept. 7.

Cole said thoughts of suicide can manifest in many different ways, and is sometimes brought on by depression, substance abuse and mental illness.

The fact that Douglas County has no teen suicides this year is great, but so much more work must be done, she said.

"I think it's awesome that it's zero at this point, but until we have more education and widespread knowledge that it's OK to talk about suicide and be more educated, it's still probably going to occur," Cole said.

Carlos Illescas: 303-954-1175, cillescas@denverpost.com or twitter.com/cillescasdp

Teen suicidesin Douglas County

2013.................. 0

2012.................. 7

2011.................. 6

2010.................. 2

2009.................. 1

2008.................. 6

Source: Douglas County Coroner's Office