Following in his father’s footsteps – a former US record holder for the 1984 Olympic track and field team – Green was a star athlete, playing at the water polo center at Huntington Beach High School, before joining the UC Irvine as a freshman. year.
While already juggling schoolwork and strenuous practices, Green was struck in March 2020 by an unexpected challenge: the coronavirus pandemic. The campus and its dormitory have closed. Practices, games and regular contact with friends have ended. Classes went live as the virus lockdown dragged on.
“He’s gone from this huge amount of training all these years to nothing at all,” said his dad Bill Green. “He lost his sport, his social group and online school was not easy for him… everything started to change for him in his life.”
Six months later – weeks after being admitted to hospital and entering a northern California mental institution, Jack Green committed suicide on September 5. He was 19 years old.
His death shows the emotional toll of the coronavirus lockdown on students separated from their friends and who had limited activities and no in-person classes, his family said. They say his isolation and mental illness intensified and played a significant role in Jack Green’s death. Drastic changes in his behavior led the family to register him in mental health facilities, where he was diagnosed with an unspecified psychiatric disorder.
“It’s more important than ever that families truly care and stand up for their loved one, and don’t assume that they are always receiving proper care,” said her mother, Julie Green. “The medical facilities are overwhelmed right now, and I think there is a lot of burnout. It is important for parents to have this difficult conversation with their children about how they really feel.
Bill Green added, “What looked like a personality change to us was actually a clinical condition. ”
Jack Green’s obituary, written by relatives, said that “family and friends find it difficult to understand the illusion and despair that led to this when his life was so promising.
On September 17, Jack’s girlfriend, Madi Habibi, and her family hosted a “paddle-out” on the ocean, a traditional ceremony by water sports athletes, in his memory in Huntington Beach. The funeral was held two days later at St. James’s Episcopal Church in Newport Beach. His family and friends raised almost $ 29,000 for his fund and memorial services.
Jack’s younger sister Victoria said she was “heartbroken” at how quickly she saw her brother’s behavior change.
“Before the quarantine, Jack was one of the few people I thought was legitimately satisfied with his life,” said Victoria Green, 17. “It was a diamond in the rough; always there to uplift everyone, to inspire them with his reckless enthusiasm and charm. But even people like Jack have a breaking point.
Julie Green said losing his school diet, sports and social life was extremely difficult for her son. A busy schedule and regular physical activity kept him focused, she said.
UC Irvine officials declined to comment, university spokesman Pat Harriman said.
Although Jack took a summer job, the family noticed he stayed awake too late, didn’t eat, train less, became more irritable, adopted unhealthy social media habits, and isolated himself from his feelings. loved ones over the months.
“The pandemic really changed the way Jack saw himself,” said Julie Green, a nurse at Kaiser Medical Center in Irvine.
The couple said there were many “missed signs” and a lack of understanding of what Jack Green was going through at the house. Extreme behavioral changes prompted them to seek help from various mental health rehabilitation programs, including the National Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, a voluntary inpatient facility in Walnut Creek, where he remained in August. Jack Green had expressed suicidal thoughts on several occasions and, according to his parents, the facility had not properly assessed him and his concerns.
Daina Glasson, regional director of National Psychiatric Care and Rehabilitation Services and Central Valley Congregate Living, said in an email on Tuesday, February 23 that the facility “had not had such an incident in our care at our facilities. Walnut Creek ”. Reached by phone, Glasson declined to comment, citing patient confidentiality.
The Greens said distance learning posed challenges for many students such as their son, and that these barriers add to the pressures young people already face.
In the absence of a normal routine, families need to better monitor their children, especially their online activities, the couple said. Psychiatric establishments must be better equipped. Schools should properly use their resources, including registration surveys and psychiatric counseling, to better understand how students are doing in and out of the classroom, they said.
Victoria Green said the most important thing families and friends can do for loved ones with psychological crises is just to be there.
“None of us are saviors, but we are companions,” she said. “That’s all we need.”
Her father called for greater mental health awareness so families and teachers can spot the early signs and know how to respond, or when to call a professional.
“What appears to be a personality change could very well be the start of deteriorating mental health,” he said. “When someone brings up suicide, they should be taken seriously. It is an insidious problem and people need to pay attention to it. ”
As Jack Green’s parents continue to cry, they will remember their son’s motivation, his caring and adventurous spirit, and his “million dollar smile”.
“You think it won’t happen to you – if it happened to us, the way we raised this young man, it could happen to any parent in America,” Bill Green said, as tears filled his eyes. . “It is the worst thing you can experience emotionally.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide or self-harm, mental health resources, including free and low-cost services, are available. They include: