Following the suicide of a gay Alabama teen, his mother issued a heartfelt plea for to the world to stop bullying youth.
Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old Huntsville, Ala., boy, took his own life less than a week ago. Now his mother, Camika Shelby, has a message to those who bully LGBTQ youth and anyone suffering from depression.
“When you have a kid who is already depressed and going through a lot emotionally, for you to call him names that you shouldn’t call him or say stuff to him is sometimes having a worse effect than it would on a child who is not struggling with depression,” Camika Shelby told the local NBC affiliate.
She described her son as a vibrant and promising person.
“Nigel was the sweetest child. He was always outgoing,” Camika said. “He was always full of joy, full of light, always dancing, always singing.”
She recalled Nigel came out to her two years prior.
“Coming out at such a young age, it can be hard. You never know if you're going to be accepted,” she said. “He didn’t know if I would accept it. That was my child. I love him. I know him, so I already knew.”
Camika last spoke to her son the night before his death, and found him the next day when she came home from work. He apparently took his life after returning home from school. She wondered if an event at school triggered the event, but knows nothing for certain.
Nigel was being treated for depression and seeing a psychiatrist at the time of his death. “I’m still shocked to this day that my baby is not here,” she said.
“Nigel’s story reinforces the need to support and affirm LGBTQ youth -- particularly Black LGBTQ youth and other youth of color,” Helen Parshall of the Human Rights Campaign told the local NBC affiliate. “Addressing these startling statistics starts with schools and communities alike working to foster safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ young people that also acknowledge the impact of historical and contemporary realities of white supremacy.”
Parshall noted the University of Connecticut’s 2019 Black and African-American LGBTQ Youth Report that showed more than 70 percent of youth “usually” feel worthless or hopeless. Just 35 percent of Black and African-American LGBTQ youth said they can “definitely” be themselves in school and 40 percent reported being bullied on school property within the last 12 months.
Most alarming, two-thirds of black LGBTQ youth have been verbally assaulted for being LGBTQ and a third have been physically threatened.
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.