By Justin Robertson
The Howard County community recently lost a phenomenal student, athlete, and person after he took his own life in late January. The passing of the River Hill High School Junior follows the 2012 suicide of Glenelg’s own Grace McComas, and marks yet another tragic suicide of a student in Howard County.
Young people such as McComas had a promising life ahead of them, however they felt the need to take their own lives. Suicide rates are increasing at an alarming rate, and the need to understand students’ mental health and personal obstacles is greater than ever.
Teenagers like McComas are all around us, and they are in dire need of help. Instead of looking forward to their promising academic or athletic futures, thousands of young students across the country are taking their own lives, and a solution needs to be found before the world loses more fantastic young students such as the River Hill student.
According to the Howard County Health Department, “Suicide was the leading cause of death for youth ages 15-19 in Howard County between 2014-2016.” Typically, car accidents are the primary cause of death among high school students. However, if suicide—something that students can actively control and combat—encompassed the number one spot of Howard County deaths for two straight years, our community has a serious problem. Glenelg Junior Mikey Small said, “I don’t know why people are feeling this way, but it is definitely a problem that needs to be solved.” Many students would agree with his opinion.
High school students have many stress factors, such as sports and relationships, but perhaps the most impactful factor is the high academic standards that students are placing on themselves. Especially in a prestigious county like Howard County, the expectation of many students is for them to take difficult classes and achieve a high grade point average. This standard forces thousands of high school students across the country to feel helpless and discouraged if they do not do as well as others in school. Glenelg Junior Matt Lee says “Schoolwork [is the most stressful thing] for me because it’s about keeping up my grades, [and] if I do bad I feel guilty and I don’t want to cause problems with my parents.” This feeling that Lee and others experience combined with toxic social media only adds to the suicide epidemic.
Another leading cause of these high suicide rates is bullying. McComas experienced a large degree of online cyberbullying, which forced her to feel negatively about herself. Those who contributed to the bullying most likely felt horrible following McComas’ death, but it was too late. The damage had already been done, and nothing could reverse the effects of the harassment. Glenelg Junior Matt Sturtevant says, “[Cyberbullying] is bad. Sometimes people take it as a joke but it’s a very serious matter.” To prevent more suicides from taking place, cyberbullying is one of the things that students should work to prevent. As a result of McComas’ suicide, Grace’s Law was passed by the Maryland Senate. The law punishes those who cyberbully with either a fine or jail time. However, this law can only punish those who already commited the crime. To prevent countless lives simply reminding people of the impact one message or image can have on someone is critical.
Although there may be some signs of discomfort in one’s life, students who have problems with their mental health often do not show any signs whatsoever. This factor is important to acknowledge before saying anything that could potentially cause someone else to make a rash, life-changing decision. Anything negative that is said or done could have a significant impact on an individual’s thoughts and feelings. Realizing these effects on mental health could prevent countless amounts of unnecessary deaths. However, if more tragedies are to be prevented, an effective solution needs to be found quickly.