Recent murder-suicides a 'wakeup call'

3 cases deeply affect northeast Florida communities

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The St. Johns County community was stunned when Gayle McCulloch killed her two sons, then turned the gun on herself.

Northeast Florida residents also grieved when Jacksonville police said a fired teacher shot and killed Episcopal School of Jacksonville's head of school, Dale Regan, in her office before killing himself.

And just last week, Clay County deputies said Cynthia Hayes was shot and killed by her husband, David Hayes. Deputies said he had already shot someone else before he committed suicide.

"It's a big wakeup call to the community," said Elizabeth Colavecchio, a board member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Florida First Coast Chapter.

She said it's important to look out for signs that someone may be on the brink of taking their own life. That includes depression, hopelessness, anxiety, a change in sleep patterns, increased drug and alcohol use, and unexpected rage.

Colavecchio said people may not realize it, but many people thinking about committing suicide talk about it first.

"Seventy-five percent of suicides have given somebody a warning that they were thinking about it happening, so just really be ready to listen and take it seriously, help them seek help," she said.

Colavecchio said the absolute best thing that anyone in need of help can do is talk to someone, such as close friends and family, or get professional help.

She said those who find someone to be in an immediate crisis should stay with them and call 911.

As has been the case with all of the recent local tragedies, the communities have been deeply affected.

Colavecchio said those who have been affected by suicide and murder-suicides also need help getting through their grief.

"Talk to each other, don't do it alone," she said. "You're not alone going through this. There's other people going through it."

Those looking for help can call a 24/7 hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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