SLIDELL -- The car was out of place and it was an odd hour, but Slidell police officers Bryant Estes and Scott O'Shaughnessy switched gears last Wednesday night when they saw a hose running into the vehicle from the exhaust pipe.
"A veil of dread kind of goes over you," Estes said. "You're hoping that the guy in there is still alive."
The two officers immediately recognized what was going on. It was an attempt at suicide.
"We talked a little bit about Jesus. Talked about his family," O'Shaughnessy said. "Just to make him think there's a bright side to life a little bit, even in the dark times."
Not everyone gets that chance, though. Shalin Bhatt did not have the chance to talk to two fellow Mandeville High students last year before they took their own lives.
"Kind of frustrated a little bit. Like, why did this happen? But overall it was just a really hollowing and numb experience that filled the entire school," Bhatt said.
Stories like these, and pleas to seek help before reaching a point of no return, are still sweeping across the nation after Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington hanged himself last week.
"This is an epidemic and it is a tragedy," said NAMI-St. Tammany Executive Director Nick Richard. "Look, there are a 120 American citizens that complete suicide every single day. There are not many diseases because that's what this is. There's not that many diseases out there where we're losing this many friends and family."
Yet, there are endless outreach efforts to combat it.
There's a national 24-7 hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, and a Crisis Teen Text line, 504-777-EASE. There's also Via Link 211 across Louisiana, and parish chapters of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI.
Steps toward those options can be taken by anyone.
"If you're feeling this way, reach out for help and if you believe that somebody, just believe even a little bit that someone is struggling, ask them, talk to them," Richard said. "Reach out to one of the organizations that are out here. We can walk you through it."
Just like these officers did.
"A little conversation can go a long way," O'Shaugnessy said. "It may not seem like much at the time, but those words you have can really be the rope that pulls them out of that darkness."
St. Tammany has made a dent in its reputation as one of the state's leading parishes in suicides, with less than 20 so far this year. But parish-wide suicide attempt numbers have already surpassed all of 2016's reported attempts.
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