For the second time in a week, a survivor of last year’s shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has died by suicide.
And on the heels of those tragedies, police in Newtown, Conn., say a man whose child was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has been found dead of an apparent suicide.
The Miami Herald reports in the wake of the Florida deaths, the state’s emergency management director is calling for state lawmakers to provide more mental health resources for the school community.
On Saturday night, a Parkland sophomore took his own life, according to Coral Springs police. A week before, a former student whose best friend died in last year’s massacre fatally shot herself.
“Now is the time for the Florida Legislature to help,” says Florida’s emergency management director Jared Moskowitz.
On Sunday afternoon, more than 60 school, county, city, child services and law enforcement officials in Broward County, Fla., as well as mental health specialists, teachers and parents, met for an emergency meeting.
Ryan Petty, father of Alaina Petty, a 14-year-old freshman who was one of 17 people murdered on Feb. 14. 2018, says the Broward County district will be giving parents the “Columbia Protocol,” a set of six questions to ask their children.
Based on their answers, they will be given several emergency resource options. Several nonprofits are also dispatching therapy groups that will offer free services.
The news of the two teen suicides comes just as students are out of school this coming week for spring break, worrying some that students may not get the help they need.
Authorities say that the student who died in an apparent suicide on Saturday night was Calvin Desir, 16, a 10th grader at Stoneman Douglas. His family has established a GoFundMe page to raise funds for his funeral.
"Calvin was so loving and well loved by all his peers and family," his sister wrote on the page. "He enjoyed riding his bike with his friends, shopping, cooking and trying new recipes with his mom, performing yard work and various chores with his dad and spending quality time with our baby sister."
The week before, Sydney Aiello, 19, a recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School graduate, took her life. She had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—one of her closest friends, Meadow Pollack, was among those shot to death last year at the school.
Sydney's parents said she had “survivor’s guilt” since the shootings.
Professionals United for Parkland, a group of private trauma-trained therapists who are volunteering their services, say the “suicides were expected after the shooting’s one-year anniversary.”
“These deaths could have been prevented. Contagion in high school suicidal behavior is common,” say Les Gordon, who sits on the board of the group and works as a trauma therapist in Boca Raton. “We have to stop it now and draw attention to suicide prevention.
Since the shooting, students regularly report to trauma counselors after breaking down in tears. They panic when fire alarms drag on even moments too long. Reports of widespread absences are common.
As spring break starts, faculty at the Parkland school worry that their students may not be receiving the help they need away from campus. They also are concerned that recent changes at the school may be negatively affecting kids.
Greg Pittman, an American History teacher at Stoneman Douglas says the reassignment of the school’s three assistant principals and a security specialist has affected the mental health of the students who need help the most.
“The kids need help and many of them that do need help are not getting any,” Pittman says. “They want to talk to people that were there.”