The death of a second Parkland shooting survivor by suicide is raising questions about suicide contagion and depression among teens

Jim Young/Getty ImagesStudents take part in a rally for National School Walkout Day to protest school violence on April 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Students from around the nation joined in the walkout against gun violence on the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School.
  • A second Parkland shooting survivor has reportedly died by suicide. The death of the male sophomore, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, comes after 19-year-old MSD graduate Sydney Aie llo took her life last weekend.
  • In the aftermath of tragic incidents, experts are expressing concern over suicide contagion – in which the suicide of one person can lead to suicidal behaviour among others. Suicide contagion can happen after a traumatic incident, such as the death of a celebrity or a person in one’s family or social circle.
  • Like Parkland, suicides also followed the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.
  • For those struggling with depression or who have thoughts of harming themselves, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

A high school student who lived through last year’s deadly Parkland shooting took his life on Saturday – the second Parkland survivor to die by suicide.

Investigators told the Miami Herald that the student was a male sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and that his identity hasn’t been released. A spokesperson for the Coral Springs police confirmed to INSIDER that the student died in an “apparent suicide.”

His death comes after Marjory Stoneman Douglas graduate Sydney Aiello also recently died by suicide. She was 19 years old and in the aftermath of the shooting struggled with survivors guilt and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, her mother, Cara Aiello, told CBS Miami.

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A teenager who survived the Parkland shooting has died by suicide

In the aftermath of tragic incidents, experts are expressing concern over suicide contagion – in which the suicide of one person can lead to suicidal behaviour among others. As INSIDER previously reported, suicide contagion can happen after a traumatic incident such as the death of a celebrity or a person in one’s family or social circle.

In the four months following the death of comedian Robin Williams by suicide in 2014, for instance, there was an almost 10 per cent increase in recorded suicides nationwide, according to a study published in February 2018 in the journal PLOS ONE.

A 2013 study of Canadian teenagers found that youth on the younger end of the spectrum – 12-and 13-year olds – are most at risk for attempting suicide following the death of a classmate, and that it doesn’t matter whether or not the teen knew the person who died. A 1990 study published in the American Journal of Public Health noted that so-called “suicide clusters” are more common among teenagers and young adults, but acknowledged that all ages can succumb to suicide contagion.

That was the case following the brutal massacre at Columbine High School in April 1999, when two teenagers went on a shooting spree that ultimately killed 13 people and wounded more than 20. Like Parkland, suicides followed the bloodshed at Columbine.

Carla Hochhalter, the mother of a girl seriously wounded at Columbine, shot herself to death six months after the attack. Her daughter, Anne Marie Hochhalter, continues to suffer severe pain from the shooting and is confined to a wheelchair. In a February 2016 Facebook post, she wrote that her mother “was already suffering from depression so the shootings didn’t directly cause her to do what she did, but it certainly didn’t help.”

And in May 2000, a little over a year after the massacre, 17-year-old Columbine High basketball star Greg Barnes took his own life. He lost a close friend, Matt Kechter, to Columbine, and also witnessed the shooting of a teacher at the school. The Denver Post reported at the time that Barnes was a standout athlete who was being heavily recruited by colleges across the country.

Read more:

Depression among Gen Z is skyrocketing – a troubling mental-health trend that could affect the rest of their lives

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Police told the Miami Herald that it isn’t known whether the death of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas sophomore can be attributed to last year’s shooting. His death follows data released by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that found suicide rates to be up almost 30 per cent in the US, with suicide now the second leading cause of death for teens and young adults between the ages of 10 to 35.

Between 2008 and 2015, hospitalizations for suicide attempts at children’s hospitals across the country doubled, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Pediatrics. The study noted the highest increase was among teens aged 15 to 17 years old.

That correlates with the overall rise in depression among young people. A study published this month in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, based on eight years of data from more than 600,000 people nationwide, found that kids, teens, and young adults under 25 are going through prolonged periods in which they are no longer interested in life and leisure activities, and at much higher rates than that same age group 10 years ago.

A decline in face-to-face social interaction among teens, who instead spend more time than ever alone on their devices, is a factor for increased depression among young people.

Following the recent suicides, those in the Parkland community took to social media over the weekend to mourn and raise awareness about available resources.^tfw

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