Jeremy Richman, the father of six-year-old Avielle Richman, one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, died of an apparent suicide. Newton police said the neuroscientist’s body was found Monday morning in his office building in Connecticut. They did not close any further details, but said that his death does not seem suspicious. Richman was 49 years old.
20 students and six adults were killed in the Sandy Hook massacre that ended after the shooter had taken his own life. After the attack, Richman tried to prevent future shootings by co-founding the Avielle Foundation, which has a two-sided mission. “On the one hand, we have research,” says the website. “We fund neuroscientific research aimed at understanding the chemistry, structure and circuits of the brain that lead to violence and compassion.” The other side of their mission is “focused on community education and engagement.”
Richman’s death is the third suicide reported in the past week with regard to school shootings. Previously, Sydney Aiello, a 19-year-old graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has taken her own life. Aiello was good friends with Meadow Pollack, who on February 14, 2018 killed 17 students and staff during the massacre. The lone murderer was arrested by the police and is currently awaiting a trial.
Cara Aiello said her daughter Sydney suffered the debt of the survivor and the post-traumatic stress disorder, but did not seek professional help. “Survival debt” is a mental state in which someone believes that they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event while others did not. These traumatic events can include rape, murder, military struggle, natural disasters, epidemics and terrorist acts such as school shootings.
Many people struggle with psychological problems, but do not seek help for a variety of reasons: the stigma surrounding receiving treatment, a lack of funds or adequate health insurance to cover costs, a lack of viable options in the area, a fear of others found out that they were seeking help, doubted whether the treatment would be effective, and a prevailing feeling that they could handle the problems alone.
After Aiello’s death, a second survivor of the Parkland survivor died in an apparent suicide, the Miami Herald reported. Coral Springs police said the student was a sophomore and took his own life last Saturday. No further details have been revealed, from this writing.
Sunday afternoon mental health experts, teachers, parents, law enforcement officers, child services experts and local leaders in Broward County held an emergency meeting to discuss suicide prevention. “They will ask parents to take this problem seriously,” said Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina was among the victims of the Parkland massacre. “Parents can’t be afraid to ask their children the tricky questions.”
Petty said the school district will give parents the Columbia protocol, a set of six questions to ask children who might consider suicide. “During the spring break, I encourage you to take the time to talk to your children every day,” said Inspector Robert Runcie. “We must remove the stigma of talking about suicide.”