Mass Shooting Survivors Who Die by Suicide: Why?

Mass Shooting Survivors Who Die by Suicide

Within the span of a week, two survivors of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, sadly died by apparent suicides. One had been a bubbly cheerleader prior to the horrific massacre but afterward, reportedly struggled with survivor’s guilt and posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). This is a somber reminder that these tragedies can continue to ruin the lives of the survivors and the victims’ families long after the shooting stops. Even when mental health resources are available, it isn’t always enough.

What makes some people able to find a way to cope with unspeakable grief and loss while others suffer more deeply?

All Brains are Unique

First, every brain is wired differently. It’s important to take into consideration each person’s individual brain type. It’s also imperative to understand that mental health disorders, such as PTSD or anxiety and depression, are not one simple or single disorder. In fact, there are 7 types of anxiety and depression that have been identified in the brain. Using the same antidepressant treatment for everyone won’t work.

What is Brain Reserve?

Second, every person has a different level of something called brain reserve. Brain reserve is the extra cushion of brain function you have to help you deal with the stress life throws at you. In general, the more brain reserve you have, the more resilient you are and the better your brain can handle challenges. The less brain reserve you have, the harder it is to cope and the more vulnerable you are to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts.

What Lowers Brain Reserve?

Depending on your life experiences, brain reserve can either increase or decrease during your lifetime. For example, exposure to chronic stress, falling off a bike and hitting your head, or getting into a car accident can lower reserve. Living through a traumatic event can further deplete brain reserve.

Can Brain Reserve Be Increased?

The good news is, it is possible to increase brain reserve even if you have experienced trauma and are suffering from PTSD. You need to follow 3 simple yet powerful strategies:

1. Love your brain. You must care about your brain health.

2. Avoid things that hurt your brain, including:

• head injury
• chronic stress
• negative thinking

3. Do things that help your brain, including:

• good nutrition
• rational thinking
• meditation
• stress-management techniques
neurofeedback (for PTSD)

Understanding that you are not stuck with the brain you have and believing that you can change your brain and change your life is a critical step in the healing process after a traumatic event.

Although the Parkland survivors who died by suicide were not treated at Amen Clinics, we have treated thousands of trauma survivors with individualized treatment plans, helped them increase their brain reserve and regain control of their lives.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If you or a loved one has experienced a trauma and is suffering from PTSD, depression, or anxiety and would like more information on treating your individual brain and increasing brain reserve, call us at 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.


  1. I have had a decade or so ago a head injury from a bicycle which fractured my scull and have found it has changed me years later and not noticed at the time, learning about the brain reserve l feel myself my brain reserve has been drained from this trauma, and very recently the grief and pain of my long time partner passing has made me consider suicide as it had become to much for my brain to process this deep deep grief which never seems to leave me has had an amplified experience for me, and now I do understand the brain reserve I feel mine has reached rock bottom with very little to none reserve. Thanks for the article.

    Comment by Leon cox — April 19, 2019 @ 2:39 AM

  2. Dear friends,

    I find your article amazingly fascinating. Survivor’s guilt can be lethal. Our daughter, Kerry, lost 4 sizes in two weeks after an EF-4 tornado destroyed her home. Her husband and their 16-year-old, daughter, Josie, survived in the safe hallway that Marc had built into their lovely home. Kerry, our daughter, had to be spoon fed by her wonderful friend, Lisa, an RN, where Kerry and Marc’s family lived with two other families until they could find temporary housing. Lisa helped Kerry to swallow a few bites at meal time each day. Kerry and Kate, two of our three daughters were in Indianapolis, IN at a cheer competition with four more of our granddaughters. They left home in the morning and returned to the horrifying reality that had destroyed 1100 other homes including my husband’s and mine while we prayed and survived in the concrete block shower in our laundry room while our home of 42 years was “buzz sawed” and destroyed around us. Kerry and Marc and our daughter, Kate and Jim are both divorced since the tornado as are many others in our community of Washington, IL. Brain reserve is key. My husband, John, of 54 years and I are both childhood developmental trauma survivors from alcoholic, abusive homes. His father, a compulsive gambler who had to drink to gamble shot himself in the head in a warehouse either intentionally or accidentally as a desperate man who had lost everything including their car. My trauma was horrifying, constant and chronic with multiple abusers. I was a “mover” during my childhood trying to stay alive. John and I met in college, fell in love, and have stayed the course of a long, successful marriage. I would not be the person without John, nor would he be the person without me. God has mightily blessed our beautiful and “battered” family. We are thankful beyond words. John and I love Marc and Jim, our ex-sons-in-law deeply into eternity. They are the fathers of our five beautiful, intelligent granddaughters.

    Comment by Susan D. Gorman — April 19, 2019 @ 5:02 AM

  3. Does the scan look at the nimbus accumbnes? Do you have any information particularly on that area of the brain?

    Comment by Shelley Munoz — April 19, 2019 @ 5:26 AM

  4. My daughter was in a multiple vehicle accident (to include a truck) when she was younger. She was diagnosed with a closed-head injury. She was in rehab where She had to learn the basic skills, like, talking, eating, drawing (she could now only scribble). Both She and I attended a seminar on brain injuries.
    We learned that a person who suffers from a closed-head injury cannot handle a lot of stimuli. She is now 51, a mother of 7 children. She suffered more injuries since then when she fell and broke her hip and another time when she fell and injured her face and head. Can you please help? Thank you in advance.

    Comment by Gloria Aleman — April 19, 2019 @ 5:41 AM

  5. Gloria, thank you for reaching out and for sharing about your daughter. We’d like to contact you directly to discuss the intimate details with you and provide information about brain SPECT scans and the treatments that we offer at Amen Clinics. Treating traumatic brain injuries and head traumas is a large part of what we do at our clinics. You can see some of our case studies on our website: We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 19, 2019 @ 6:56 AM

  6. Oh, so sorry to read about your injury and more resently heartbreak. I don’t know your religious beliefs but one place i have found tremendous help for emotional trauma is through “Healing Rooms” . 2 or 3 people will listen to you…and then have u quietly sit and rest as they pray very quietly over you. I have only experience peace from such prayer…and healing. Some people experience physical healing but all emotiinal/spiritual healing. Some times one needs to go for a time period. This is healing through the power of the Holy Spirit of God. This healing power is for all and doesn’t depend on your religious belief. You can search for a Healing Room near your location on the internet. This is healing through the supernatural…the Amen clinics is healing through the physical…both are good and can be used together. There is hope and peace in the future although you cant feel it now. My situation wasnt as difficult as yours but healing prayer has given me peace that i disnt think would ever been possible

    Comment by Mary Branson — April 19, 2019 @ 9:07 AM

  7. Dear Leon – I am so sorry for the loss of your partner. I urge you to seek therapy and try Neurofeedback for the intense grief you are experiencing. It has been very beneficial to me, as have all of Dr. Amen’s recommendations for brain health. I will keep you in my prayers, and I wish you God’s peace and comfort.

    Comment by Linda — April 19, 2019 @ 2:47 PM

  8. Hi there,
    My 23 year old son had a stroke in utero during my pregnancy. He has always had anxiety and some ocd behaviors and thinking patterns. At 17 he started having depression, that at 19 he was no longer able to work or go to school. The medications seem to make it worse so we are now weaning off of them.
    Any info would be great, thank-you!

    Comment by Debbie Onucki — April 20, 2019 @ 7:22 AM

  9. Hello Debbie, thank you for reaching out and sharing about your son. We’d like to contact you directly via email to discuss options that we can offer.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 22, 2019 @ 1:13 PM

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