Spencer Smith, a 16-year-old from Maine, died by suicide after being locked in the house and feeling disconnected from his friends due to COVID-19 isolation, according to his family.
Smith was just another sophomore student at the Brunswick High School doing what most students his age do - studying, chilling and hanging out with friends – until the coronavirus pandemic hit and the country went into lockdown.
The restrictions forced Smith into isolation like many others, prompting schools to take the virtual route to conduct classes. Being locked up inside the house and the inability to meet his friends ultimately drove the teenager to take his own life on Dec. 4. According to his family, Smith left a note for his parents, writing about feeling locked in the house and growing apart from his friends.
Parents Regret Not Seeing Warning Signs
Spencer's father, Jay Smith, said he regrets that the family 'missed catching the signs that things were getting worse for him' over the last few months.
"We knew he was upset because he was no longer able to participate in his school activities. We never guessed it was this bad," Jay said. "Looking back now we could see little things that we should have caught but we didn't realize his mental health was deteriorating as bad."
"The social distance ain't working for the kids. I mean, the kids are having it hard," he added." Spencer had a very kind heart. He was a fun-loving kid, but we didn't see that pain that apparently he was in."
Jay noted that Spencer spent all summer working out and getting in shape to become a lineman for the school's football team. However, when the sport was changed to flag football owing to the pandemic, his son "gave up on it."
"As soon as he found out it wasn't going to be a regular football season, looking back, we noticed he stopped working out," Jay recalled. "He stopped riding his bike as much to the point he didn't even work out anymore. Instead of working out, he took naps."
The family has now set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for his funeral and burial expenses and has already surpassed its $10,000 goal. Jay plans to donate the additional money to the Brunswick Dragons football team, which his son loved being a part of.
Counselling for Students Suffering From Social Isolation
According to a recent article in the International Journal of Medicine, studies show that social isolation is often connected with suicidal behavior.
In the wake of Spencer's suicide, the Brunswick School Department said that counseling and bereavement support services will be available for students and staff. "It's really important if you or your child is not feeling well in any way to reach out for help," said Phillip Potenziano, the superintendent of schools, in an online statement Friday. "Suicide should not be an option."