Columbine shooting survivor speaks in Naples

Images form the Parkland shooting certainly bring up a lot of memories for everyone. It’s been a year since the accused gunman opened fire, killing 17 people. It not only took a toll on students but the community as well.

One man hopes to get the area more involved to help those suffering from mental health problems and addiction as a result.

Austin Eubanks, Columbine High School shooting survivor, spoke at David Lawrence Center’s Sixth-Annual Sound Minds Symposium in Naples Saturday.

“The most important piece is that community comes together and leans on other humans for support,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks also said it’s those people we don’t see who struggle years later.

“The people who turn to addiction and the ways that their families are impacted or unfortunately the people who turned to suicide and the way that their families are effected,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks suffered from addiction after he was shot during the massacre in 1999. He witnessed his friends get shot and killed 20 years ago on April 20.

“I was prescribed medications for my physical injuries,” Eubanks said. “And almost immediately, I started taking more than what was prescribed because they were so effective in allowing me to detach from that underlying emotional pain.”

After working through his addiction, Eubanks is sharing his story because he says everyone is touched by tough emotions and addiction.

“If you find the courage to sit in that pain, you can come out better than you were before the trauma or pain occurred,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks visited Southwest Florida to share his story.

“It confirms a lot of the work we’re doing,” said Peggy Aune, associate superintendent of Collier County Public Schools.

Aune said Eubanks’ message of focusing on emotional resilience is important for students in our area.

“Supporting students’ social-emotional learning, building grit, building resilience, building a sense of belonging on every one of our school campuses,” Aune said.

Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said it stressed the need for the community to share resources like a recovery program for people in difficult circumstances.

“Tell us that they need help, that they’re addicted, and we will divert them right into the David Lawrence system to get them help,” Rambosk said.

Eubanks shares his story and message with the hope to inspire Southwest Florida to end the stigma around mental health to stop the spiral into addiction. Visit his website for about addiction treatment.

“The most important piece is that community comes together and leans on other humans for support,” Eubanks said.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
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