Recent School Shooting-Related Suicides Highlight Need For Survivor Care

By Lindsey Weedston 03/26/19

Two survivors of the Parkland school shooting have died by suicide since the tragic event.

grieving grandparents of student who died by suicide

A second death by suicide by a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting reportedly occurred on Saturday, March 23—one week after another student, 19-year-old Sydney Aiello, died by suicide.

Her mother said that Aiello suffered from PTSD and survivor's guilt following the deadly mass shooting that occurred in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, and ended with 17 people dead.

One week after Aiello’s death, another report of a suicide death surfaced, this time by a yet unidentified 16-year-old boy. This took place one day before the one-year anniversary of the international March For Our Lives protests that were organized by students to demand action against gun violence.

Ryan Petty, a parent who lost his daughter in the Parkland shooting, alluded to this second suicide death by posting “17 + 2” with a broken heart emoji on Twitter. He told The New York Times that those close to the shooting survivors have been fearing these tragedies.

“What we feared could happen is happening,” he said.

In the wake of this second suicide, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) issued a press release inviting those who are grieving and anyone else at risk to reach out to them, as well as urging Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other institutions to properly care for survivors of mass shootings and similar traumas. 

“Youth involved in traumatic experiences are often at higher risk for a number of mental health issues, including experiences of suicidal thoughts,” the memo reads. “In the United States, youth aged 10-24 are already at especially high risk for suicide, which is the second leading cause of death for this age range.”

AAS also warns readers about the phenomenon of suicide contagion in which simply hearing about another suicide, especially one that is reported on by national news, can increase the risk of further suicide deaths. Those vulnerable to suicide, such as other school shooting survivors, may need extra care during this time.

“The Parkland survivors have been heroes in their advocacy efforts since the tragedy, but the deaths of these students are a sobering reminder that they are not only young advocates, but also trauma victims and gun violence loss survivors,” said AAS Firearms and Suicide Committee co-chair Michael Anestis.

In addition to the two Parkland students, the father of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 died by suicide Monday morning. Jeremy Richman, 49, was a neuroscientist and co-founder of The Avielle Foundation, a non-profit named for his late daughter. In a statement, the foundation called Richman a “champion father” and vowed to keep his mission alive.

“Jeremy's mission will be carried on by the many who love him, including many who share the heartache and trauma that he has suffered since December 14, 2012,” the statement reads. “We are crushed to pieces, but this important work will continue, because, as Jeremy would say, we have to.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Text HOME to 741741. If you think someone is in immediate danger, do not leave them alone, stay with them and call 911.

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: