Parkland Shooting Survivor Kills Herself After Year Of Survivor Guilt
Parkland, FL – A little more than a year after she buried 17 friends, classmates, and teachers killed during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 19-year-old Sydney Aiello committed suicide.
Officials said the young woman took her own life over the weekend, NBC News reported.
Heather A. Gálvez, of the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office, said Sydney died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her head.
Sydney’s mother, Cara Aiello, said her daughter had struggled since the Feb. 14, 2018 shootings at her high school, according to NBC News.
Cara Aiello said her daughter was close friends with one of the victims, Meadow Pollack, and suffered from intense survivor guilt.
She also said that Sydney, who was on the Parkland high school campus when 17 students and staff were murdered and another 17 were wounded, had recently be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said Sydney was struggling in college because sitting in a classroom scared her, NBC News reported.
The family of Meadow Pollack released a statement about the sad news.
"The death of Sydney Aiello is tragic, shocking and heartbreaking, and surely at least in significant part the result of the ripple effect of the MSD shooting," the Pollacks said.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina Petty was one of the students murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said he has focused his efforts in the wake of the shootings on suicide prevention, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“It breaks my heart that we’ve lost yet another student from Stoneman Douglas,” Petty said. “My advice to parents is to ask questions, don’t wait.”
Cara Aiello said that Sydney, who graduated from the Parkland high school in June of 2017, seemed sad but never asked for help before she shot herself, KMOV reported.
Cindy Aronberg Seltzer, of the Children's Services Council of Broward County, said parents should look for warnings signs in children who have been through a traumatic event like a school shooting.
"Parents have to be a little more aggressive when they see those signs and not just wait for the child to ask for help but maybe to take them to those resources,” Seltzer said.
Dr. Victor Schwartz, chief medical officer of The Jed Foundation, told NBC News that said that "exposure to death around you does to some small degree raise the risk of suicide."
"It stands to reason that there is some increased risk around the survivor guilt," Schwartz said.
"Parkland students have done an incredible job being out there and advocating for gun safety, but the sadness and distress are still there. I’m sure many of these students are still struggling with symptoms that look like PTSD," the doctor said. "And how could they not be?"
Schwartz warned that big changes, like starting college, could act as triggers for young adults who have survived the kind of trauma wrought on the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
"They and their families and support systems need to be aware of potential risk times," he said.
Parents of children who have undergone trauma should watch for sleep and concentration issues, erratic moods, increased despair, compulsive habits, and substance use, the doctor said.
“You want to be a little bit more vigilant about what they're feeling and what their moods are and how they're functioning," Schwartz said. "That just makes sense."
Seltzer told NBC News that "a great deal of trauma services that have been made available" the survivors of the Valentine’s Day school shooting.
She said the Children Services Council recently opened Eagle's Haven, a wellness center designed specifically with Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, faculty, and parents in mind.