The horrors of school shootings produce damaging effects that far outlast the attacks themselves. For two students who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida, those horrors proved to be too much.
Over the weekend, a second student who survived the February 2018 attack took his life, less than one week after a 19-year-old woman who survived the shooting also committed suicide, according to the Miami Herald.
Sydney Aiello’s parents said their daughter took her life as a result of “survivor’s guilt,” revealing she had been recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
What has the response been?
Andrew Pollack, father of slain MSD student Meadow Pollack, took to Twitter over the weekend to say students who lived through the shooting “should not have survivor’s guilt” because “they are the victims.”
Instead, he argued, city leaders should feel “survivor’s guilt” for their failure to protect the students from the deadly shooting:
MSD student survivors should not have survivors guilt. They are the victims
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) March 25, 2019
Ryan Petty, father of Alaina Petty, also responded to the second suicide:
— Ryan Petty (@rpetty) March 24, 2019
Speaking to the Sun Sentinel over the weekend, Petty said, “We have to recognize after an event like this, there is trauma, anxiety and depression. We have to educate parents and teachers to recognize the signs and ask the right questions.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also responded, writing, “Incredibly tragic news over the last few days about the loss of two more students from MSD. Truly heartbreaking.”
Incredibly tragic news over the last few days about the loss of two more students from MSD. Truly heartbreaking. https://t.co/YGchLIhYZN
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 25, 2019
And Florida Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz urged the Florida state legislature to take actions to provide mental health assistance to teachers and students who survived the 2018 attack:
.@Fla_Pol Now is the time for the Florida legislature to help. Just like last year. Mental health is a bipartisan issue. While we are in session NOW is the time. #sayfie @FlaDems @fineout @FloridaGOP @richardcorcoran @PeterSchorschFL @RepTedDeutch https://t.co/4jm2l4rIuP
— Jared Moskowitz (@JaredEMoskowitz) March 24, 2019
The lack of resources at students’ and teachers’ disposal has certainly been deeply concerning.
Broward County teacher Lisa Olson, whose son survived the deadly Parkland shooting, took the school district and city council to task for failing to provide more services to survivors of the attack.
“Students and staff are struggling and MSD staff and administration is completely disconnected from these struggles,” she said recently. “No one from the school ever checked up on the students who witnessed this tragedy. The district could be doing so much better at serving the students at MSD.”
1/ The world needs to know what’s happening in Parkland.
For a year, students & teachers who witnessed the shooting have been ignored and not given proper mental health services.
This week, two survivors have taken their lives.
Watch this mother of an injured student speak. pic.twitter.com/dJrzsdmJVa
— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) March 24, 2019
During an interview with Faithwire earlier this month regarding America’s skyrocketing suicide and depression rates, licensed counselor and seminary graduate Carly Graham emphasized the importance of establishing community.
One of the most prominent problems when it comes to depression and suicidal ideation, she explained, “is social isolation.”
“Even though we have a society that is active on social media and we have a 24-hour news cycle,” Graham said, “I’ve found that individuals feel more disconnected than they used to because they don’t have a supportive community in-person.”
She went on to suggest such isolation often leads to intense feelings of despair. Immersion into community, though, often leads to significant improvements. With her own clients, Graham said she noticed positive changes “when they were a part of a supportive community and truly felt that others cared about them and expressed that to them.”
Please continue to pray for the families impacted by the deadly shooting in Parkland and for local lawmakers seeking to provide the community with the care its residents need.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, or you just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re looking for counseling services in your area, consult the Christian Counselors Network.