Landon Fuller, an outgoing 11-year-old from Hobbs, loved to make people laugh. He enjoyed sports, riding his bike around the neighborhood with his friends and attending church with his parents and two older sisters.
The shuttering of schools and the stay-at-home orders implemented to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 were hard on him, his mother said, and he often asked to go out and play or accompany his parents to the grocery store.
“For Landon, it was the end of his world,” said his mother, Katrina Fuller.
— I Want The Old Normal Back (@Amonstersmom1) July 9, 2020
On April 23, almost six weeks after his last day in a classroom, Landon took the gun his father carried to protect himself from rattlesnakes while working in the oil fields. He rode his bike to a field a little way from his family’s home, and he killed himself.
Landon’s death was one of more than 2,300 unexpected deaths being analyzed by the Office of the Medical Investigator since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in New Mexico in early March. That is nearly a 20% spike in unexpected deaths, which usually includes car crashes, suicides, homicides and some natural deaths.
Dr. Heather Jarrell, the interim director of OMI, attributed the increase to “indirect causes of COVID.”
And health officials suspect those numbers include a rise in suicides.
National experts have warned there could be more suicides during the pandemic due to increased financial stress, isolation and other factors.
Since her son died, Katrina Fuller said, she has struggled to get out of bed and complete routine chores. She cries frequently while talking about her son and about what happened.
She said she doesn’t want to politicize his death, but she does want to raise awareness about a need for more support, socialization and mental health care during this time when people have been isolated and home-bound.
As an educator, Katrina said, she was well-versed in the signs of suicide and depression and never saw any hints that Landon was planning suicide. She said although she and her husband, James, tried to hide their financial strain and stress from the kids, their worries spread easily through their small three-bedroom house.
In the weeks after Landon’s death, Katrina said she found an entry in a journal he was keeping as a school project chronicling the time of the pandemic.