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Florida parents sound alarm on mental health crisis after teen daughter commits suicide

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This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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 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 father Hunter explained to Acesparks 13 in Tam Bay. “She was blackmailed. She was bullied. She was betrayed by her best friend.”

Her rents 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 she grieves.

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“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.

McKenna Brown hoped to play women's hockey at the University of South Florida.

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But while they mourn, Cheryl and Hunter Brown are also spreading awareness. Not only do they encourage suicidal people to speak up, they are also holding rents 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 rents are emphasizing the importance of kindness and empathy.

McKenna's rents Hunter and Cheryl hope her tragic death will spread awareness about mental health.

“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’s the McKenna way.”

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