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Community meeting offers hope for Parkland shooting survivors

City Hall meeting focuses on suicide prevention programs

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – Jim Wolf said his daughter, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, is in mourning and fears that she could lose another one of her friends.

She was friends with one of the two survivors of the massacre who recently killed themselves. That's why Wolf joined a large crowd Wednesday night at Coral Springs City Hall to talk about suicide prevention programs.

"She's afraid to lose another friend, you know, another student, someone she knows, or an acquaintance," Wolf said. "She just wants the dying to stop."

Family members said Sydney Aiello suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in recent months.

Elected officials and mental health professionals were also in attendance to answer questions from parents and students who are still grieving the deaths of Sydney Aiello and Calvin Desir.  

"She just let me know that, you know, she's fearful of what's happening," Wolf said.

Calvin Desir, 15, was a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Another suicide shook the community Monday. Police in Newtown, Connecticut, said Jeremy Richman, the 49-year-old father of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim, was found dead of an apparent suicide. 

Richman was a neurosicentist who was dedicated to helping prevent mass shootings. He co-founded The Avielle Foundation, a nonprofit named after his daughter that focuses on research and community engagement. 

Janine Sullivan is also feeling the pain, but she said she knows there is hope. Her daughter, who is also a Parkland school shooting survivor, spent months trying out different things to feel better but nothing worked. 

Sullivan said she was struggling until she found a therapy called Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories, or RTM, which specializes on treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. 

Sullivan's daughter, Alexandra Sullivan, said that now that she is able to cope a little better thanks to RTM, a cognitive intervention used to deal with flashbacks and nightmares, she just wants to help everyone else. 

"It doesn't take me back to that horrible day when I hear loud noises or fire alarms go off, or the normal triggers that were bothering me before," Alexandra said. "None of those trigger me anymore."

Gretchen Rovira, a family outreach coordinator for the South Florida Wellness Network, said she was at City Hall because she said it is important for the survivors to take care of their mental health as they cope with the news of the suicides. 

"It’s really sad, but at the same time, I think it's a great opportunity for people to know there is hope," Rovira said. 

  'You are not alone. There is help'  

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideations call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 211, use their chat, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting FL to 741741.

PTSD symptoms vary 

Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing symptoms.

  • Flashbacks — reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts

Avoidance symptoms: Things or situations that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.

  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
  • Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event

Arousal and reactivity symptoms: Instead of being triggered by something that brings back memories of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts

Cognition and mood symptoms: These can begin or worsen after the traumatic event. These symptoms can make the person feel alienated or detached from friends or family members.

  • Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
  • Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Source: The National Institute of Mental Health

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