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Perry Township police continue to investigate factors in recent teen suicides

MASSILLON, Ohio-- A grieving Stark County mother is sharing her painful story in hopes that it will help other families.

Hayden Porter was a freshman at Perry High School, just outside of Massillon. The 15-year-old took his life on Thursday, becoming the sixth current or former student to commit suicide since the school year began. Mental health officials call it a "suicide contagion."

"My goal is to make sure that no parent has to feel the way I'm feeling right now, and I want this to end," said Ashley Jones, Hayden's mother. She said her son gave no warning signs.

"Please tell somebody because he didn't tell us. He didn't speak. Maybe he was scared, I don't know, but if something is going on, don't be afraid to speak up," Jones said.

She said she believes that bullying by other students played a role in the teen's decision to end his life.

"There's been some horrific, horrific things said on Snapchat that I truly believe that they were doing something. And I know there was an incident. I had to have my brother pick him up from school because he was scared that these four boys, he didn't say names, were going to hurt him," Jones told FOX 8's Jack Shea.

Jones said she hopes her family's tragedy will lead to a public discussion about the impact of bullying.

"These kids need to know that it's not OK, that these parents need to talk to you your children, make sure they're not being bullied. If there is a bully, put a stop to it."

Perry Township police said investigators are checking the phones and computers belong to Hayden and the five other victims to see if they can identify a specific reason for the suicides. According to police, there is no evidence that bullying was a factor.

One issue police examined is a disturbing creation on social media called the "blue whale challenge."

"If a child signs up for it, they are given a list of tasks. And, obviously, at the end of it, there is the suicide for that game. Depending on the research you conduct, you can hear anything about this, is that it's a legend that hasn't contributed, it has contributed, to deaths overseas," Police Chief Michael Pomesky said.

"You're always concerned with any factor that can be identified, but at this point it hasn't been the blue whale challenge."

Perry Township police said they responded to 24 calls, where they were asked to check on the welfare of a person in crisis, over the weekend. That included a number of teenagers. Pomesky said they believe this is a positive step because it means young people are telling someone they need help.