Students, family question why memorial was removed for student who committed suicide

Students are seeking out someone to talk to about mental health.

CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. -- It’s been a difficult week for Camden County High School after two tragic deaths back to back.

First, 19-year-old Kaden Campbell was killed on I-85 in Atlanta. He was a freshman as Georgia Tech and a recent graduate of Camden County High School where he still has friends today. He was struck by a SUV while walking near his campus Friday night.

Campbell's mother Patty Mills, who lives in St. Mary's, Georgia, said she talked to her son every day, including Friday around 7 p.m., the night her son was killed. She said she never imagined it would be her last time.

"It would have never even crossed my mind," Mills said. "It is unfathomable to me that he is gone."

Two days later, another death shook the community.

Lillian Davis, known as "Lilly", took her own life on Sunday. She was a freshman at Camden County High School and an active member of the Friese Studio of Music, led by her close family friend Jan Shiff.

"I think there is a little bit of survivor's guilt," Shiff said. "I would have reached out to her, I would have helped her if I could."

 

Davis was just 14 years old. The circumstances surrounding her suicide are remaining private, per her family.

"Her enthusiasm, she loved to sing, she loved to please her parents, just a total joy to be around," Shiff said.

This week, the high school said it made counselors available on campus to help grieving students, but Schiff says they are not doing enough.

"It’s more than having grief counselors available, sometimes they don’t understand that they need to go talk to somebody," Shiff said.

Camden County Junior Kya Garibaldi echoes her sentiments. She told First Coast News she would talk to a counselor if she knew where to find one. She says they do not appear readily available even if they are there to help.

"I know none of my teachers have talked about it and we need to find more ways to talk about mental health," Garibaldi said.

Students also tell First Coast News they had some questions over items, like flowers and letters, brought into the school lobby and placed by the administration's door in memory of Lilly, but one evening they disappeared and no one knew why. They assumed the makeshift memorial had been trashed.

The school declined an interview but sent First Coast News a statement:

"Our community and school system mourns the loss of two young lives this week. One a current student and the other a former student with ties to the community. In anticipation of the challenges faced by students and staff this week, school and system staff met Sunday evening to cultivate a plan for counselors, therapists and social workers to provide support to all who expressed or demonstrated a need. Beginning Monday morning counselors met with students, and will continue to do so in discreet and confidential settings. Additionally, counselors were assigned to "shadow" the deceased students' schedule to be available to support both students and teachers stricken by the sudden loss.

Before the first school day this week counselors and administrators agreed that mementos for the students would be preserved and presented to families at an appropriate time. This decision, and every other decision was made to foster the healing of our students community, respect the privacy of the families and the dignity of those we have lost."

 

Still, many students and parents were still questioning why there was such a lack of communication if that was the case.

"I think they could have made an announcement saying we are not throwing these things away, we are giving the letters to her family," Garibaldi said.

Parent Evie Socarras says she’s trying to get answers too. 

"Why did they take away encouraging letters to other students?," Socarras asked.

In response to the controversy at school, Lilly’s parents told First Coast News they just want suicide prevention to be talked about. 

Lilly's mom, Beth Davis, said she was upset with how the school handled the situation at first. She was told letters were posted in the hallways for Lilly until staff took them down. 

"I was very upset," Beth Davis said. "I had heard they took them down because it was a distraction, so that was a little disturbing."

After First Coast News contacted the school to ask about the letters, the Davis family said they received a call shortly after from the school saying they would be delivering the letters to them to keep. 

Beth Davis said she just wants parents and teachers to be more aware. 

“To parents, if your kids are struggling with anything and they tell you they need help please get them help," she said. "If there is anything that can be learned from this, help your kids, that’s important. If you know your child, go with your instinct, go with your intuition and follow that."

Lilly’s dad, Jason Davis, wants thank the community for being there for them. He didn't find as much of an issue with the school because he says they are just trying to cope with the tragedy themselves.

“The parents have been wonderful, the kids have been wonderful, the businesses have been wonderful, the school, how they are dealing with it, all I think they should be doing is providing counselors," he said. 

Lilly’s parents said they plan to bring the letters to her funeral Friday at 6 p.m. at Christ Church in Camden County.  

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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