Here's What One Parkland Survivor Wants You To Know About Supporting Others
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We can't abandon the survivors. If we do, we risk more tragedies. That's from a piece in Vox last week by Marjory Stoneman Douglas graduate Kyra Parrow. She was writing after the suicide deaths of two young people who survived the mass shooting there last year. She's here in the studio now. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
KYRA PARROW: Hello. Thank you for having me.
CORNISH: So talk a little bit just about your experience. In the time of the shooting and after, where were you, and what happened?
PARROW: I was just right outside of the school. I happened to skip class when everything was starting to happen. I remember seeing the first wave of students coming, running from safety. First responders were coming in, SWAT team. Just seeing seven police cruisers racing down, you know, is very scary. And we weren't sure what was happening. And once I was able to get home was when news started to come out. That was where I kind of found that, like, which of my friends were shot.
CORNISH: In the weeks that followed, obviously the school reopened, and you all had to go back. What was that process like? How did you find that you were feeling?
PARROW: After the shooting, we had about a week of funerals that we all attended. And then we had kind of one other week to regroup. And then we were right back to school.
CORNISH: You write a lot about people essentially saying - not quite to get over it but that it's somehow time to put that aside. And was that a really common response?
PARROW: Of our grief?
PARROW: Yes. I remember I was struggling to write my paper. And I went teacher. And I told her, this is what I'm going through. I can't help myself to write this paper. I couldn't focus whatsoever. And she told me, put your grief in a box almost as if grief was a tangible object that you can just put in a box. And it's not.
CORNISH: How did you struggle? How do you think that that's reflected in a young person?
PARROW: For me, I stopped eating, stopped sleeping. I was track captain, and I quit my senior year. I was very lost. Although there were resources on campus such as therapy dogs and provided hugs and therapists on campus, a lot of times it just wasn't enough.
CORNISH: Can we talk about that more because I know that there were something like five different locations - right? - with mental health support. You wrote about this. They brought on more than two dozen mental health clinicians. Did you try and use these services and not get support? Or why do you feel they weren't enough?
PARROW: For me personally, I never got the help that I probably should have gotten at the time because on campus, there was a lot of comparing trauma of - oh, if you weren't in the building, you are not traumatized. It was a lot repression, too, because of that. And so...
CORNISH: Do you mean from student to student or with the mental health...
PARROW: Student to student.
PARROW: I myself was afraid to speak out about my experience and my trauma and my grief, afraid that I would offend somebody else who maybe experienced something different from what I did.
CORNISH: Right, who might have witnessed...
CORNISH: ...Some aspect of it or...
PARROW: Right. Even on campus, it was like, don't call yourself a survivor if you weren't in the building.
CORNISH: What made you change your mind about speaking out or writing something like this where - you're right - people could say, look; you weren't even there; what are you talking about?
PARROW: I wanted to speak out because I felt like it needed to be said, to start that conversation on mental health resources, to start that conversation of what it's like to be a survivor every day and worrying about being in a classroom and the lack of resources for survivors. And so I just felt the need to have my piece be shared.
CORNISH: What would you like to see in the future? Unfortunately mass shootings may be a reality for some communities going forward. And if you're saying, you know, a handful of mental health clinicians on scene isn't that helpful, what would be?
PARROW: It's a tough question because there's so many different, various things that can be done. And I don't have all the answers to everything. But I hope that for mental health resources - I think should be making it mandatory to go speak to a therapist. At least see them once, something just to talk about it and know that your trauma is very valid and real, and your grief is real. So I think it's just very important to start the conversations on mental health resources right from the beginning and making sure everyone is getting the help that they need.
CORNISH: That's Kyra Parrow, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She's now a college student and gun control advocate. We reached out to Broward County Public Schools for a response. In a statement, a spokesperson wrote, quote, "our district continues to assess the needs of students across the county and to leverage all available resources to address those needs." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.