Seth Sutherland, to all outward appearances, was like any other boy. And by all accounts, the senior at Lake Minneola High School, near Orlando, was a good-natured kind of guy, too. Then, apparently out of the blue, Sutherland chose to take his own life – and he made the reasoning for his suicide plain in a note that he left behind.
On the morning of November 14, 2017, 17-year-old Seth was writing in his bedroom before heading to school. He wasn’t doing last-minute homework, however. In hindsight, in fact, these would turn out to be some of the last words Seth would ever commit to paper, as the day was due to take a heartbreaking turn for the teenager.
Then, with his bag packed, Seth caught the bus to school. At Lake Minneola High, he had a group of friends that he always met up with – some of whom he would hang out with that day after arriving on campus. And, according to one buddy, there was perhaps no inkling of what was to come, as they would later tell the police that Seth had seemed “in a good mood.” At around 8:00 a.m., when school was about to start, however, everything changed.
It was then that Seth posted a message to Snapchat – words that now take on great significance and will likely haunt whoever saw them. In it, he swore at “all of you who contributed to this.” And, after that, he took out the pistol that he had stashed away in his bag and killed himself.
And even though the police would later reveal that there hadn’t apparently been any witnesses to Seth’s act, news of what had happened would quickly spread. Furthermore, given the many outlets for communication available to teenagers, school authorities even struggled to raise the alarm with families before their children did.
Indeed, Lake County Schools communication officer Sherri Owens would later explain as much to Orlando-based CBS affiliate WKMG. “In this age of social media, some of the students had alerted parents even before we had the opportunity to do so,” she said.
Owens knew that she had a responsibility to release accurate information on the tragedy, though. “When we alerted parents, we wanted to make sure we had confirmed as many details as we could,” she added. “So when our message went out, we told parents, ‘It appeared a student took his life this morning.’”
That didn’t stop Lake Minneola High from being put on lockdown, however, as it was initially feared that there was an active shooter situation. Other schools in the vicinity quickly followed suit; but, of course, these fears eventually proved to be unfounded.
On the day, there was just one death; Seth claimed his own life, and his alone. That was the conclusion reached by Lt. John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, who would later tell reporters that the wound was “self-inflicted.” Lt. Herrell added, though, that “detectives and crime scene investigators continue to work and process the scene and collect evidence.”
But Seth’s suicide may have left several questions unanswered at first. It wasn’t known where and how he had taken possession of a firearm, for instance, given that his family didn’t have any guns. It later transpired though, that the teenager had taken a Glock from a house belonging to Deborah Simpson.
The previous weekend, Seth had visited Simpson’s property to carry out some chores to earn some extra money. He had stayed the night before heading back to his own home on Sunday; in the interim, though, he had stolen the gun, even though it had allegedly been securely locked up.
And, naturally, many may have wondered why Seth had chosen to take his own life, particularly as outwardly nothing had seemed to be seriously wrong with the teen. In a note penned prior to his suicide, though, Seth revealed that he had been keeping his feelings of depression a secret. “I don’t tell people about how I feel because people have their own problems to deal with,” he wrote. “My problems are meant to be mine. I’ve just decided not to deal with them anymore.”
He went on, “If we are gonna die, why do we bother getting attached to people? Death is all around us.” It seems, therefore, that Seth may have felt that life was futile. And, apparently, his awful choice was, to him, easier to make sooner rather than later. His note continued, “The more people I meet, the harder this goodbye will be. So… I choose to say goodbye now.”
“I could go on and on, but the time has come,” Seth added. It was plain from his words, then, that he had made the devastating decision to bring his existence to an end. And, sadly, as events reveal, the teenager didn’t change his mind.
Seth continued, however, “I don’t want anybody to think this was anyone’s fault. I love each one of you so much.” Clearly, he didn’t want to play the blame game or have anybody torture themselves over thinking they could have done more. And he ended his final thoughts, simply, with just one word: “Goodnight.”
The contemplative tone of Seth’s note is in marked contrast to the anger of his later Snapchat message – a disparity Lt. Herrell is still trying to figure out. Perhaps, then, the student had a change of heart on his journey to school; ultimately, though, nobody will ever truly know what was going through his mind.
But it seems as if this incident, though shocking, was in actual fact a long time coming. Seth had been suffering from depression for four years; in the meantime, he had seemingly reached his limit. While not wanting to burden anyone with his issues, though, he had become a victim of suffering in silence.
And Seth’s tale may serve to remind others that, no matter how happy and healthy someone seems on the outside, inside they may be struggling. Furthermore, it may even encourage someone secretly in a similar position to feel that they can seek help.
In the wake of Seth’s suicide, however, the school has been attempting to deal with the tragedy by offering grief counseling to those students affected. On Seth’s Facebook page, meanwhile, a statement reads, “We hope that people who love Seth will find comfort in visiting his profile to remember and celebrate his life.”
And reflecting on it all, it appears that this act was deliberately planned and carried out to its sad conclusion. The best anyone can do, then, is to honor the memory of Seth Sutherland and to do their best to help anyone who is hurting in the same way.