The true scale of a suicide epidemic among young people in a small town was revealed yesterday.

As well as the seven deaths linked to social networking websites, a coroner revealed that a further six had also died within a year.

The astonishing rate of hangings in Bridgend, South Wales, has terrified parents in the area and one secondary school has been placed on 'suicide watch' after pupils appealed for help.

Of the seven "internet" suicides which culminated in the death last week of 17-year-old Natasha Randall, each victim was known by at least one of the others.

Although the six other deaths revealed by coroner Philip Walters are believed to be isolated incidents, he said they show that the problem is even more widespread than originally feared.

"I am very concerned," he said. "It is very important that we get to grips with the situation.

"There are 12 young men and one young woman involved and all were found hanged in the area in the last year."

One of the other victims, James Knight, 26, hanged himself from a belt during a heavy drinking session after a painful break-up with his girlfriend.

Another, Andrew O'Neill, 20, died after being convicted of drink-driving and assaulting a police officer. A further hanging victim was lorry driver

Jason Williams, 21, only months before he was due to marry. His bride-to-be said she was mystified by his suicide.

Police investigating the six further suicides do not believe they were linked to the other seven deaths in the town, whose population is less than 40,000.

A spokesman said: "Although it is an absolute tragedy for the families involved, we do not believe they knew each other."

As investigations into the multiple deaths continued yesterday, a secondary school attended by a 15-year-old who recently tried to take her own life announced new measures to tackle the problem.

Leah Phillips was moments away from death when her stepfather found her hanging by a rope from the banister of their home near Bridgend the day after her 17-year-old friend Natasha died.

Now senior staff at her school have announced the creation of an "anti-suicide taskforce" after 12 of her fellow students made a plea for help.

Teachers at Ynysawdre Comprehensive set up the group to "prevent further tragedies" and held discussions with a charity aimed specifically at preventing suicide and depression in the young.

Deputy head Michelle Hatcher said the school "felt the need to act swiftly" to tackle the problem.

She said: "There were 12 pupils who are friends of this girl and they came to us and asked for help. The news was already ripping through the school about this girl trying to commit suicide.

"We knew we had to act quickly so we held a special assembly to explain to pupils there was support within and outside the school if they need to talk. We have a school counsellor they can always talk to, as well as other teachers or myself, the school's child protection officer."

The 920-pupil school has been shocked by the spate of suicides in the town, and Leah's mother last night said the school was acting sensibly to protect the pupils.

Tina Phillips, 40, said: "I am shocked that 12 children have come forward - it's astonishing. You don't realise how depressed these children are.

"It is definitely a good idea for the school to be on suicide watch.

"If they can help them to prevent it happening again that's got to be a good thing.

"In our experience there are no signs - you don't know what to look for. It is very worrying.

"It is a start if they have come forward to talk about it, because they weren't talking about it before. I thought there might be one or two but not 12."