Lake Mary High School teen struggled with mental health before suicide, sheriff says

Sheriff says teen was twice hospitalized under Baker Act

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

LAKE MARY, Fla. - The 17-year old teen who took her life Wednesday inside the Lake Mary High School auditorium  had struggled with mental health, according to Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma.

Lemma said she was hospitalized through the Baker Act twice before in 2015 and in December of 2018, three months before she brought the gun onto campus and shot herself.

Within those three months, Lemma told News 6 the teen had been seeing counselors both at the high school and off campus.

He did not say how she was obtained the gun or how she brought it onto campus. However, he did say the conversation needs to be focused on the importance of mental health resources for students.

"The healthiest thing we can do is talk about this," Lemma said.

Seminole County Public Schools was awarded $1.6 million for school safety and mental health through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act passed after the shooting in Parkland last year.  As a result, the district hired 13 district mental health counselors who travel to different schools during the week.

Krissy Moses is one of school's counselors. In February, she told News 6 she's helped counsel around 100 students since coming on board and says early intervention is crucial.

"The sooner we can get help to a student in need, the quicker they get better," Moses said. "But it takes someone to recognize something is going on."

However, the sheriff says there was no way of telling what was in the mind of the teen before she took her own life, but adds that there is a way to prevent the next one.

"If there is anything we can do right now, it's go to our families and talk to our loved ones," he said.

He said this the same day school officials canceled classes at Lake Mary High School on Thursday. Instead, grief counselors filled the hallways.

Parent Christian Kennedy, along his wife and daughter Akina Douglas, all went together after the student's death. He said Akina not only heard the gunshot in the auditorium but she ran into the teen crying in the restroom minutes before and asked if she was OK.

"She saw her a few minutes before, and I tried to explain to her," he said, pausing. "To be honest with you, there is nothing I could have said." 

It's why they all spent time with the counselors available. Akina said it helped a lot. 

"It's OK, but when I start back, it's going to be difficult," she said. 

Her father said the counselors offered their services through spring break next week and will set up a schedule after that. Since he is still working with his insurance to continue counseling, he's grateful they were there for the family Thursday.

"I went in feeling extremely grieved and I left feeling better," Kennedy said. "They talked separately to my daughter, separately for us and it was amazing, and I'm thankful for that."

School will be closed Friday, too, as it marks the beginning of spring break for Seminole County schools, however counselors will be at the high school's media center from 9 a.m.to noon.

Seminole County School officials also sent a districtwide email Thursday listing resources for all students and parents. Click here for the mental health resources and the See Something Say Something information.

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