An 11-year-old boy is in critical condition after a suicide attempt at his home near Raleigh, North Carolina. His parents say their son was bullied because of his fondness for the children's cartoon My Little Pony and his percieved sexual orientation or gender presentation.
"He's the kid that never walks. He dances everywhere," the boy's mother, Tiffany Morones-Suttle, told Raleigh's WTVD. "He's so full of energy. He's always on the move."
Morones-Suttle said her son has endured bullying for years now, and WTVD contends the harassment increased as the student made known his affinity for My Little Ponies -- part of a growing fanbase of boys and men affectionately known as Bronies.
"He'd come home and say, 'Mom, I'm tired of people being mean to me, I'm tired of people calling me gay, I'm tired of people telling me I'm ugly, that I'm stupid'," Morones-Suttle told WTVD. She said her son was usually able to brush off the bullying, but 10 days ago, she came home to find her son unconscious after attempting to take his own life. The child is in critical condition at Raleigh's WakeMed Hospital, where he is unresponsive, and scheduled to undergo a tracheotomy today, according to WTVD.
Despite the tragic events leading up to their son's hospitalization, the family said they aren't angry with their son's tormentors. Instead, they're trying to take inspiration from the child's favorite show, which preaches tolerance, acceptance, and that "Friendship is magic."
"I've heard a lot of people say you need to go after bullies and hold them responsible," said Morones-Suttle. "But you know, I don't think that's what [my son] would want. I would rather teach people how to do right than turn around than punish, because punishment doesn't always work."
LGBT youth -- and those perceived to be gay or gender nonconforming, regardless of how they actually identify -- report substantially higher rates of harassment and bullying than their non-LGBT peers, which can contribute to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, and exclusion, which can contribute to depression and thoughts of suicide.
Although WTVD's report links the bullying suffered by the child and his suicide attempt, most suicide attempts are influenced by a complex number of factors rather than a single instance. Anyone struggling with harassment, depression, self-harm, or thoughts of suicide should reach out to support networks like The Trevor Project, which offers a free, confidential 24-hour hotline for LGBT youth. The Trevor Lifeline is available at 1-866-488-7386. Others may want to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255 for free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.