A Central Florida couple is sounding the alarm about youth depression after their 16-year-old daughter committed suicide before starting her senior year of high school.
McKenna Brown, 16, was a star athlete who hoped to play women’s hockey at the University of South Florida. She was one day away from starting her de ella last year at East Lake High in Tarpon Springs before tragically taking her own life on Aug. 7.
“She made a couple mistakes. It led to some physical, sexual, emotional abuse, ”Her dad de Ella Hunter explained to FOX 13 in Tampa Bay. “She was blackmailed. She was bullied. She was betrayed by her best friend of her. ”
Her parents say that despite experiencing cyberbullying and abusive friendships throughout her teens, playing hockey had given her purpose and a source of happiness.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating McKenna’s death while her parents grieved.
“It’s been total hell, and I know she’s all around us still, but she’s not here physically and that hurts,” her mom Cheryl said.
But while they mourn, Cheryl and Hunter Brown are also spreading awareness. Not only do they encourage suicidal people to speak up, but they are also holding parents of other children involved accountable.
“If you’re aware of something that’s going on in your kid’s life that’s affecting another kid, you got to say something,” Cheryl emphasized. “You can’t just not say something. That’s not OK and that could’ve prevented this.”
Most of all, McKenna’s parents are emphasizing the importance of kindness and empathy.
“When you see somebody who is being ostracized or alone or just needs a little hug, pick-me-up, you know, reach out to them,” Hunter said.
“Throw your arm around them,” Cheryl added. “That’s what she did. And that is the McKenna way.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline by calling 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.