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15-Year-Old Victim of Antigay Bullying Dies by Suicide in Alabama

Nigel Shelby

Friends and family are mourning the loss of Nigel Shelby.


A 15-year-old boy has taken his life after experiencing antigay bullying.

The citizens of Huntsville, Ala., are mourning Nigel Shelby, a freshman at Huntsville High School, who died by suicide Friday.

"We were saddened to learn this morning of the death of Nigel Shelby, one of our 9th grade students. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time," said Aaron King, the principal of the high school, in a statement.

A GoFundMe page has been launched to help Shelby's mother cover the funeral expenses. The crowdfunding campaign has raised over $15,000 of its $10,000 goal.

"Every LGBT+ child lost to suicide from bullying is a crime," wrote Kevin Bleyle in the GoFundMe comments. "Those responsible, and their parents, need to be held accountable!"

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, the American Journal of Public Health reports that every incident of physical or verbal harassment against an LGBTQ young person increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by an average of 2.5 times.

"We know how challenging coming out can be at any age, especially in environments that may include risk factors for increased rates of discrimination, rejection, and bullying," said Amit Paley, CEO of The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that offers resources for youth at risk for suicide.

"At The Trevor Project we hear from LGBTQ young people who have thoughts of suicide, or feel unsafe or unloved at school or home -- just for being who they are. We encourage adults who interact with youth to learn more about LGBTQ competent suicide prevention and risk detection, and to remind LGBTQ youth that they are never alone, that their lives have value, and are loved."

"I graduated from Huntsville High. I am still processing this loss," said Nadia M. Richardson, creator of No More Martyrs, a campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues in the black community, in a statement on Facebook. Richardson cited a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics showing that black children are twice as likely to take their lives as white children.

"We have so much to understand and so much work to do," Richardson said. "Racism, sexism, homophobia, classism; all of this plays a part. Bullying is a by product of a world ill equipped to include that which is deemed different. As a result, psychologically damaging othering occurs and leaves many isolated, self-loathing and depressed. Don't shy away from the necessary conversations around this. The cost is too high."

If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.