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This story deals with suicide. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the Suicide and 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 killed herself 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. He was one day away from starting last year at East Lake High in Tarpon Springs before tragically taking his own life on Aug. 7.

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“He made a few mistakes. It led to some physical, sexual, emotional abuse,” his father Hunter explained to Fox 13 in Tampa Bay. “He was blackmailed. He was bullied. His best friend cheated on him.”

McKenna Brown’s parents said they sought help before taking their own lives.
(Provided by the Brown family via Fox 13)

His parents say that despite facing cyberbullying and abusive friendships throughout his adolescence, playing hockey gave him purpose and a source of happiness.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating McKenna’s death while his parents grieve.

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“It’s been absolute hell, and I know he’s still around us, but he’s not physically here and it hurts,” said his mother, Cheryl.

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

McKenna hoped to play women’s hockey at Brown University of South Florida.
(Provided by the Brown family via Fox 13)

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, suicides have increased in Japan

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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 also hold parents of other children involved accountable.

“If you’re aware of something going on in your child’s life that affects another child, you need to say something,” Cheryl emphasized. “You can’t just say something. It’s not right and it can prevent it.”

Most of all, McKenna’s parents emphasize the importance of kindness and compassion.

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

McKenna’s parents Hunter and Cheryl hope her tragic death will spread awareness about mental health.
(Fox 13)

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“When you see somebody who’s being ostracized or lonely or just needs a little hug, a pick-me-up, you know, reach out to them,” Hunter said.

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“Throw your arms around them,” Sherrill added. “That’s what he did. And that’s the McKenna way.”

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