The apparent suicide of the neuropharmacologist father of one of the Sandy Hook shooting victims has refocused attention on the mental health of those impacted by tragedy. Dr. Jeremy Richman, aged 49, had been working tirelessly himself to help prevent future acts of violence.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on March 26, 2019

Richman’s daughter, Avielle, then six years old, was one of 20 children murdered in the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary shooting on 14 December 2012.

He had co-founded the Avielle Foundation after his daughter’s death with his wife, Jennifer Hensel. The foundation aimed to prevent violence by increasing understanding of mental health issues and access to treatment.

He had written on the organisation’s website that his child’s death had rendered him “infinitely heartbroken”.

Shattered by the Sandy Hook shooting, Richman became a committed mental health advocate

Local police said that Richman’s death was not suspicious. They had recovered a note from where they found Richman but did not reveal its contents.

“This is a heartbreaking event for the Richman family and the Newtown Community as a whole,” Newtown Police spokesman Lt Aaron Bahamonde said in a statement.

“Our hearts are shattered and our heads are struggling to comprehend,” the foundation wrote in a statement announcing Richman’s death.

“Jeremy was deeply devoted to supporting research into brain abnormalities that are linked to abnormal brain behaviour, and to promoting brain health.

“Tragically, his death speaks to how insidious and formidable a challenge brain health can be and how critical it is for all of us to seek help for ourselves, our loved ones and anyone who we suspect may be in need.”

In a video outlining the foundation’s work, Richman had preached compassion, which he said was “the ability to feel somebody else’s suffering, to empathise”.

“But most importantly, it’s the hope that you can do something to alleviate that suffering.”

He had left his job at a pharmaceutical company to start the foundation and was in demand as a public speaker and mental health advocate. Viewing gun violence as a “public health epidemic”, he had supported research into the neurological underpinnings of violent crimes.

Richman and Hensel’s work had been attacked by conspiracy theorists, including Alex Jones. The families of the Sandy Hook victims, including Richman and Hensel, had to take legal action against him after he repeatedly claimed the massacre had never happened and caused them to be subject to stalking and harassment.

Richman had also penned haiku poems on his daughter’s death, including this work, titled Anniversary:

What is your number

When will your heart be broken?

Mine is 12/14

Political leaders react to Richman’s death

Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, took to Twitter to offer some thoughts on mental health and gun violence. “In the span of one week, two Parkland survivors took their own lives,” he wrote.

“Today, we learned that the father of a Sandy Hook victim also took his. We must work to end gun violence and the trauma that comes with it. Inaction should not be an option.”

Earlier this year, Newsom had vowed to create a new ‘Brain health task force’ in his state.

Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren also lamented Richman’s death. “We have failed the people of Sandy Hook, Parkland, and the communities that face these tragedies every day,” she wrote.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide:

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36