BRUNSWICK — In the wake of a Brunswick High School student’s death, parents were urged this week to know the signs that indicate when someone is suffering from mental illness during a time of isolation.

Spencer Smith, 16, died by suicide Dec. 4. Smith’s family said he struggled from the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brunswick School Department hosted an online presentation Wednesday with a mental health expert to share ways to support students in the aftermath.

“With a loss like Spencer, who was well known across the community … everyone touched by that loss is affected,” said Greg Marley, the director of suicide prevention and clinical director of Maine’s National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Anyone who knew of it, whose life feels a little less safe, they’re shaken.”

Marley said parents should watch out for isolation and if their child is ruminating about death or if that slides into depression. If a teens’ sleep gets disturbed over long periods or they can’t get to sleep or stay asleep, that is another warning sign. Parents should also watch for high-risk behavior, such as running away and use of alcohol and drugs. Parents should speak clearly with their kids about what happened after suicide, and dispel rumors.

“Be ready for a range of questions and be comfortable asking and answering questions,” Marley said.

Marley said parents can also turn to the child’s pastor or mentor or someone from school, “just make sure the conversation happens.”

“Pay attention,” he said. “If you see something that disturbs you, that’s when you act and you act by listening and connecting.”

Superintendent Phil Potenziano said about 60 people watched the presentation Wednesday.

For grief support services, visit the state of Maine website. Another resource is Camp Kita, a summer camp for youth who have lost someone to suicide, and can be reached at campkita.com. The Midcoast Youth Center in Bath also helps kids age 10 through 24 engage in community and get referrals for treatment. CHANS Home Health and Office in Brunswick also has grief services at 207-844-4571.

NAMI’s helpline is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 800-464-5767 (press 1). There is also a peer support teen text line open from noon to 10 p.m. at 207-515-8398.

If you are concerned about yourself or about somebody else please call the Maine Crisis Hotline at 1-888-568-1112. If you are not in Maine, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or chat with a crisis counselor at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

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