A 16-year-old boy in Maine, despondent over his isolation because of coronavirus restrictions that made his school resort to remote learning, committed suicide last Friday, triggering his mom to write on Facebook, “This remote learning is crap.”
Spencer Smith, a sophomore at Brunswick High School, felt increasingly isolated as a result of distance learning. He had dreams of playing lineman on the Brunswick High School football team, but those hopes were dashed when it was replaced by flag football. (Note: Image above of BHS football players does not include Smith.)
Spencer’s father Jay told WMTW, ‘The social distance ain’t working for the kids. I mean, the kids are having it hard.”
“As soon as he found out it wasn’t going to be a regular football season, looking back, we noticed he stopped working out,” the boy’s father explained. “He stopped riding his bike as much to the point he didn’t even work out anymore. Instead of working out, he took naps. Thinking back, the last few months, we realized we missed catching the signs that things were getting worse for him. It wasn’t the same type of practice because they had to social distance. He didn’t like that part of it.”
“At one point, the teenager was attending in-person school one day a week, but asked his parents if he could stay home because he found it too difficult not being able to interact with his peers,” NBC News reported. “Smith said his son left a note behind detailing his struggles with being isolated, writing that he felt like he was ‘locked in this house’.”
Spencer’s mom Angela wrote on Facebook: “This remote learning is crap. I just lost a son because he couldn’t be with his friends. He was trapped in the house. He felt like he lost his friends and had a hard time with his school work. He felt he had no future. He hated what society was becoming. So he took the easy way out. Parents, please take everything your kids are saying seriously. Give them a huge hug and don’t let go. You never know if it will be the last time. This house is so quiet now. I would give anything to have the noise back.”
Jay Smith said, “He was a fun-loving kid, but we didn’t see the pain that apparently he was in. I’m not doing this about Spencer. I’m not trying to talk to you about Spencer. I’m talking about all teenagers and the way they feel.”
“He wasn’t average. He was our son,” Jay added. “But that’s not the life he wanted. He wanted more out of life. He wanted everything out of life.”
Phillip Potenziano, the superintendent of The Brunswick School Department, issued a statement in which he said:
I want to take this opportunity to remind our community that suicide, when it does occur, is a very complicated act. No one single thing causes it. But in many cases, a mental health condition is part of it, and these conditions are treatable. It’s really important if you or your child is not feeling well in any way to reach out for help. Suicide should not be an option. I am including some information that may be helpful to you in discussing suicide with your child.
Furthermore, a student’s death is a difficult and challenging situation that can generate a high level of anxiety and distress for some students. If you feel that your children are having difficulty, we encourage you to discuss their thoughts and feelings to help them work through their grief or concerns. Please also consider monitoring and discussing your children’s communications (social media, phone, e-mails, text messages) to further assess their potential needs.