Maine father says remote learning isolation to blame for teen's death amid pandemic

Spencer Smith, 16, loved football and was loved by his friends and family, his dad said

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[Editor's note: This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)]

A Maine father whose 16-year-old son committed suicide last week has said that the isolation the teen felt from remote learning contributed to his death.  

Jay Smith, of Brunswick, told a local news station that his son, Spencer Smith, left a note about how he struggled to cope over the past several months, feeling like he had been locked in the house and was growing apart from his friends while learning virtually during the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We need to get our kids back into classes,” Smith told News Center Maine. “Let them do their activities, their after school activities whether if it’s sports or band practice or plays. Let them do this stuff, if they want to. It’s up to them, let them make their decisions.”

Spencer Smith, 16, was a lineman for his high school football team.

Spencer Smith, 16, was a lineman for his high school football team. (Smith family)

Smith told WMTW-TV that his son, a sophomore at Brunswick High School, had trained all summer and was excited to play football at school in the fall. But when the season was canceled and replaced with flag football, he said his son lost interest, stopped working out and began taking naps.

He said Spencer also struggled with distance learning. Despite going in for school one day a week, he still felt isolated from his friends and asked to stay home full time. His grades then began to slip.

“The social distance ain’t working for the kids,” Smith told the station. “I mean, the kids are having it hard.”

Smith said he wants to share Spencer’s story to help other teens who may find it difficult to cope during the pandemic.

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“I’m not doing this about Spencer,” he said. “I’m not trying to talk to you about Spencer. I’m talking about all teenagers and the way they feel.”

Smith told "The Ingraham Angle" Wednesday night that the family "did not see how deeply depressed" his son was over the past few months. He said he believes his son would be living "on a high right now" if he was in school with his friends and playing football. 

"He was putting up a good front for us. I just wish he would have spoken more to us about what was going on in his mind," he said.

The school district said counseling and bereavement support services will be available to all students and staff.

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“It’s really important, if you or your child is not feeling well in any way, to reach out for help,” Superintendent of Schools Phil Potenziano said in a statement. “Suicide should not be an option.”

Fox News' David Montanaro contributed to this report.