Students, teachers, and community members are in the process of coping with the Thursday, January 7 death by suicide of Dylan Buckner, football team captain and quarterback at Glenbrook North High School. The high school is located in Northbrook, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. As is often the case in the aftermath of tragedy, people ask how such a loss could have been avoided. These somber situations provide an opportune time to evaluate which interventions might help students seek out necessary mental health care before the unthinkable occurs.
Dylan, an 18-year-old senior, held school records for both passing attempts and completions and had offers of football scholarships from MIT, Oberlin, Augustana, and other colleges and universities. He said on Twitter that he had been selected to play in the Hawaii Tiki Bowl, whose activities would have taken place this past December 30-January 4 in Honolulu had there been a 2020 football season.
A National Honor Society student, he noted on his Twitter profile his 4.7 grade-point average and scores of 34 on the ACT and 1,460 on the SAT. School District 30’s superintendent, Dr. Brian Wegley, said his teachers wanted to ‘clone’ him – in fact, they considered Dylan the definition of leadership.
Dylan also had a history of depression, which had become exacerbated because of the cancellation of the fall football season amid the dangers of COVID-19.
In the NBC News interview available on this link here, Dr. Colleen Cicchetti, pediatric psychologist and executive director of the Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, discusses at length the signs and treatments for depression, especially among high school-age students. She notes that discussing depression and suicide no longer carries a stigma for most students, who generally are eager to discuss their struggling feelings if given a chance by someone they trust and whom they perceive as really caring about them and their feelings.
MWAH! wishes to remind students that just as an athlete might need to visit a physical therapist following an injury sustained during practice or in an athletic competition, youths and adults of all ages also need to feel comfortable seeing a counselor or mental health therapist for what ails them from a mental-health perspective. No athletic trainer would encourage a student to “play through the pain” and postpone a needed visit to a medical doctor or physical therapist following an injury on the playing field.
Parents, teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and school administrators across the United States should regularly remind young people that obtaining needed care for the mind is as important as obtaining needed medical care for a physical injury to the body. The more often students hear that message, the easier it will be for young people to obtain the right care at the right time—for both mind and body.