A 16-year-old boy, Spencer Smith, has died by committing suicide after feeling locked at home as a result of COVID-19 pandemic which led to isolation and virtual learning by students.
According to Daily Mail, the teenager, a sophomore at Brunswick High School who worked two jobs and loved football, died on Friday, December 4, 2020, leaving behind a note revealing that he felt like he was ‘locked in this house’, as reported by NBC News.
Spencer’s devastated father, Jay Smith, has spoken out to warn other parents that ‘social distance ain’t working for the kids’ as he said his family didn’t realise the ‘pain’ his son was in.
Students all across America have been forced to adjust to a new normal as many schools have switched to at least partial virtual learning, with coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations continuing to soar. Before he died, Spencer’s dad said he had been feeling isolated from his friends, had stopped playing football and was taking more naps.
Most of his classes at Brunswick High School had moved online with one day of in-person learning.
Spencer still felt isolated from his friends going in one day a week so then asked his parents if he could stay home then as well, Smith said.
‘The social distance ain’t working for the kids. I mean, the kids are having it hard,’ Smith told WMTW.
At home, Spencer struggled with spending so much time alone and his grades also slipped.
Smith said his son then struggled, even more, when his dreams of being a lineman for the school football team were dashed.
Spencer had been training all summer but the sport was replaced by flag football, meaning he thought he wouldn’t get to play.
‘As soon as he found out it wasn’t going to be a regular football season, looking back, we noticed he stopped working out,’ Smith told WMTW.
‘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, last few months, we realized we missed catching the signs that things were getting worse for him.’
Spencer’s mom Angela Smith also wrote about her son’s struggles during the pandemic in a Facebook post the day after he died.
‘This remote learning is c**p. I just lost a son because he couldn’t be with his friends. He was trapped in the house,’ she wrote.
‘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.’
Spencer left a note for his parents the day he died, telling them that he felt locked in the house and felt he was growing apart from his friends, NBC reported.
Spencer’s dad told WMTW he wanted to share his son’s story as a warning that teens and young people are struggling due to the pandemic and should be able to get back to in-person learning.
‘He was a fun-loving kid, but we didn’t see the pain that apparently he was in,’ Smith said.
‘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 paid tribute to his son saying he ‘wasn’t average’ and was ‘fun-loving’.
‘He wasn’t average. He was our son. But that’s not the life he wanted. He wanted more out of life. He wanted everything out of life,’ Smith said.
‘He was a fun-loving kid, but we didn’t see the pain that apparently he was in.’
A vigil was held for Spencer in downtown Brunswick Tuesday night.
Mental health issues, particularly among young adults, have increased during the pandemic, according to research from the CDC.
During late June, 40 per cent of American adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues.
Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers were worst affected by COVID-19 associated mental health challenges, it found.