Recent suicide death of Sandy Hook parent highlights survivor's guilt

Earlier this week, a parent who lost his daughter in the Sandy Hook Massacre was found dead in an apparent suicide.

Posted: Mar 29, 2019 1:05 PM
Updated: Mar 29, 2019 1:09 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI)- Earlier this week, a parent who lost his daughter in the Sandy Hook Massacre was found dead in an apparent suicide.

It's been six years since the Sandy Hook School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. 20 children and six adults were gunned down at the elementary school.

Jeremy Richman's suicide comes days after two Parkland shooting survivors took their own lives. The string of events brings up an important discussion.

News 10 sat down with a counselor who reacted to the news on a personal level. He explained the tough reality of "survivor's guilt."

William Little is no stranger to mental illnesses.

"I just really feel for them," William Little, MSW, LCSW said. "There is a lot of different kinds of griefs, but I can only imagine the grief from losing a child is probably about the worst it can get."

It's been 10 years since he left the military. "I'm not happy that those things happened in my life, but I'm happy that I can draw from those experiences and now help people," Little said.

Little says what he endured overseas has taught him to relate to others on a much deeper level.

"Trauma is trauma, right? And we're all people," he said. "Sometimes I think I could have done something. I haven't talked to that person in years and now all of a sudden he's gone now."

He's now the Military Veteran Coordinator at the Hamilton Center in Terre Haute. He's also a mental health counselor. Little helps others through life after trauma.

"They're gonna struggle on how to live their life every day after that," Little said.

Mass shootings, he says, trauma can be disruptive. For those who live through the attacks and for the families of the victims, "survivor's guilt" is a real thing.

"Why? Why did this happen, why am I left to live while the other person is gone?" Little said. "You don't know the right questions to ask yourself. you're not examining it in the right way. You're examining it from a viewpoint of grief and loss and guilt."

He says symptoms within "survivor's guilt" are PTSD and depression. Both are risk factors for suicide.

"If a person begins to feel like their grief is maybe surpassing what grief ought to feel like, especially if you're not familiar with what grief ought to look like. That's when it's probably time to start asking for some help," Little added.

Little says there are some warning signs for people that may be considering suicide. That could include an overwhelming sadness, tiding up personal affairs, giving up some prize possessions, and or starting to say 'goodbye's to people.

Little described to me some warning signs: Overwhelming sadness, tiding up personal affairs (insurance plan is up to date, will is up to date), giving up some prize possessions, and or maybe starting to say 'Goodbyes' to people.

Little recommends support groups and individual counseling for those seeking help. Whether that is with a mental health counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

To learn more about resources offer at The Hamilton Center Inc., click here.

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