High performing student, 17, kills himself as he feared his school results would be affected due to lockdown
The family of an A-level student found dead, apparently by suicide, in a park in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, has asked people to seek counsel if they are struggling with the psychological effects of the ongoing lockdown. Matthew Mackell, 17, was found on May 7 in the picturesque Dunorlan Park, and he was pronounced dead after police and paramedics attended to him. According to local reports, the reason behind the teenager’s death was his fear for his future amid the coronavirus lockdown.
A notebook of the youngster found by his family after his death revealed that he was worried about how lockdown would affect his school results. Matthew’s family has now urged students to speak out about the pressures of education during the time of crisis. “He was writing about his feelings and that he wasn't happy. It was quite dark. It wasn't nice to read. But I wasn't aware of any problems at all. If anything I thought he was doing more than well with it. No one really thought that Matt was worried about that. Matt was stupidly successful at school. I was speaking to a couple of his friends and they were saying he was 100 percent the brightest one out of the whole year,” his brother Chris Mackell said.
“He literally spent his breaks and lunches doing all his work and doing extra. But he was worried that he was going to end up in a dead-end job which is stupid to think about, especially when he was doing so well. I think he enjoyed school and was quite proud of himself,” the 18-year-old added.
It has been said that Matthew wanted to study at university and aimed to become an accountant. While Matthew's family, which lives in Tunbridge Wells, is still trying to accept the fact that he is no more, they are also focusing on the importance of mental health and how tough the uncertainty surrounding closed schools during the pandemic can be. “If anyone in school is worried about the lockdown, don't be. You can more than makeup for what you're missing out on now. It's not the end of your A-levels and it's certainly not the end of the world you not being at school right now. Obviously people are stressing out about it. I want to emphasize the mental health aspect and that help is there. You are not a burden on someone because that's one thing Matt was worried about - having to go and talk to someone. He felt bringing his problems to them would bring them down and be a pain in the arse for them,” Matthew’s elder brother said.
He added: “A lot of his friends really can't believe it. One boy was kicked out of the sixth form year because he wasn't doing enough work and he was saying to me that it's given him a kick up the arse to go back to school and do his A levels. One girl also saw the email from the school so I went up to her mum and told her she wasn't 100 percent so they sat down and had a word about it all which is lovely to hear.”
A fundraising page started to help raise money for Matthew’s funeral as well as to plant a memorial tree in Dunorlan Park, has received over $ 8,846. Describing his son as “the most kind-hearted young man you could ever meet”, Michael Bond, 48, wrote in the JustGiving description: “I'd like to stress to you all, that if anyone needs to talk through anything at all that's worrying them, please talk to someone, don't keep it to yourself. Check on people, make sure they are ok, give them a hug... talk.”
Matthew's headteacher Dr Hilary Macaulay also expressed her grief over his death. The teen was in the first year of his A-levels before sitting exams next year. He was handpicked out of Year 12 to do a two-week work placement with an American investment management firm in London.
Showing the 'great sadness' felt by the Skinners Kent Academy community, Dr Macaulay wrote a letter to parents sent out on Monday, May 11. “His father has asked that I stress to you all that, if anyone feels they need to talk through anything at all in their lives that is worrying them, to please talk to someone and not keep it to themselves. We are aware that this will be upsetting for students at the Academy,” the letter read.
It added: “The particular situation we are faced with, both as a country and a community with schools currently closed, also makes bringing together our students at this time more challenging. Academy staff are on hand as well as our colleagues from the Educational Psychology Service to ensure that we provide appropriate, ongoing support to those affected. Our thoughts are with Matthew's family and the whole Academy community sends them our deepest heartfelt condolences and support at this incredibly sad time.”
Meanwhile, Kent Police sealed the area off while an investigation was carried out. They confirmed that they were not treating the death as suspicious.