If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255
February 14, 2018, was a day I don't think any of us can forget. I can't even begin to describe to you the pain I felt for these kids. These kids I never knew. These kids were my age. These kids had their entire lives ahead of them.
Later that day after receiving news of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I sat in my bed and watched news coverage of the ongoing event. And I cried. I couldn't stop crying.
It was all too real. Too many shootings kept occurring. Too many shootings are STILL occurring. And way too many innocent lives are getting stripped away so abruptly.
Of course, these shootings bring gun regulation into a huge topic of discussion. But, in addition to that, there's another important consequence that plays a factor: mental health.
Within just the past month, there were two suicides that occurred over a year later most likely linked to the shooting. On March 17, 19-year-old Sydney Aiello took her own life. According to her mother, Sydney suffered from survivor's guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder. She was life-long friends with Meadow Pollack, one of the victims that did not survive the massacre.
I recently viewed Sydney's Facebook. Her recent posts truly showed her happier moments where she memorialized her slain classmates, advocated for tighter gun laws, and even publicized teaching her first yoga class. On June 12, she shared a post that conveyed a message regarding the suicides of Robin Williams, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain. All were seemingly happy and beloved celebrities that no one expected to take their own lives. The post concluded with a final statement that read, "So, let me say this really loud so the people in the back of the room can hear me ... SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO CHECK ON THOSE WHO SEEM THE STRONGEST."
That couldn't be any more right. Didn't Sydney seem strong? At least, that's how we perceived her on social media. She seemed like a fighter. She WAS a fighter and was clearly trying her hardest to persevere through this trauma and stay strong.
Unfortunately, Syndey lost her battle. But she isn't the first that lost her life due to depleted mental health, and she certainly won't be the last if we don't start addressing these issues more seriously.
People always say they care about others' mental wellbeing but don't actually do anything until a suicide happens. They don't demonstrate support or stability until their loved ones are gone. That shouldn't be how it is. It can't be.
Parents, please check up on your children. Please take everything they say to you seriously. Make sure they understand there's a way to cope with the pain they're experiencing. Validate them. Know that they're not alone.
This applies to us all. Check up on your friends. Spread awareness. There's always a way to deal with the pain, trauma, and hardships you're enduring. Killing yourself will never be the answer. We have to ensure as individual communities and as individuals ourselves we have the proper resources to provide for people going through these difficult times.
My thoughts are with the victims of the Parkland massacre, the Parkland suicides, and anyone that has ever experienced suicidal thoughts or actions or lost a loved one because of suicide. You are beyond loved.