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MSD Community Mourns Loss Of Recent Grad Who Took Her Own Life

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community is mourning another loss. Sydney Aiello was a recent MSD graduate who was close friends with Meadow Pollack, one of the victims of the Parkland shooting.

Aiello's mother said her daughter took her own life last weekend.

Aiello's mother, Cara, and members of the Parkland community say this is an important time to remind everyone of the number of resources available for those who need help.

Aiello was described as a vibrant young woman who was focused on her grades and a joy to be around. Cara Aiello said her daughter was on campus the day of the shooting but not in Freshman Building. She said Sydney struggled with survivor's guilt and was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Cara said Sydney struggled to attend college classes because she was afraid of being in a classroom and was often sad recently but never asked for help before she killed herself.

Cara hopes Sydney's story can help save others.

Ryan Petty's daughter, Alaina, died in the MSD shooting. He's focused a lot of effort on suicide prevention since the Parkland tragedy, worried that traumatized teens might take their own lives.

"It breaks my heart that we've lost yet another student from Stoneman Douglas," Petty told CBS 4 News. "My advice to parents is to ask questions, don't wait."

Petty said there are a series of critical questions that anyone can ask a person who is struggling with suicidal thoughts.

"Some of the questions that need to be asked are - do you wish you were dead and not wake up? Second question — have you had thoughts of killing herself?" Petty said, adding that follow-up questions focus on a person's intentions of acting on suicidal thoughts.

Columbia University Professor Dr. Kelly Posner is an internationally renowned expert on suicide prevention. She weighed in on the epidemic of suicide.

"This is one of our greatest public health crises," Posner said.

Posner is the lead scientist on the Columbia Protocol that asks 6 questions of people who might be considering suicide. The protocol instructs people on how to someone threatening to kill themselves. A link to that research is below.

Posner said the protocol is responsible for reducing the suicide rate in the military and she hopes to get this information to everyone in America to reduce what she calls "our number one preventable cause of death."

"We know we need to find the people suffering in silence," she said. "Every coach, every teacher, every peer needs to have this in their hands."

Cindy Arenberg Seltzer is President and CEO of the Children's Services Council of Broward County. She said there are lots of community resources in Broward County like the 211 hotline, the Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention and a new program called Eagles' Haven that opens next month in Coral Springs. Seltzer said the Parkland tragedy proved that we all need to work to get over the stigma associated with mental health problems and a troubling inability to ask for help when we're struggling. She said it's important for parents to look for suicide warning signs like kids who hurt themselves or stop taking part in important activities.

"Parents have to be a little more aggressive when they see those signs and not just wait for the child to ask for help and maybe take them to those resources," Seltzer said.

She also said it's important for young people to know they can reach out to a trusted adult or friend when they're in crisis.

Sydney Aiello loved yoga and her mom said Sydney wanted to dedicate her life towards helping others. Now you can help her family by donating money to a GoFundMe account set up in Sydney's memory.

Click here to identify and prevent suicide.

A GoFundMe page has been created 'In Loving Memory of Sydney Aiello.' Click here to donate.

Click here to read more about 'Parkland Strong: Support & Resources'

Other links:
Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention is Here to Help!

Your first call for help:

Tomorrow's Rainbow:

Children's Services Council:

Also, if you or anyone you know is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, help is available.

Here are some important suicide prevention hotlines:

Broward County:
(954) 537-0211

Miami-Dade County:
Suicide Prevention/SafeNet
(305) 358-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention

There is free counseling and confidential support available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

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