An Alabama community is mourning the loss of a high school freshman who died by suicide after facing ruthless homophobic bullying.
According to a Madison County Coroner, 15-year-old Nigel Shelby, who attended Huntsville High School, died on April 18.
Two days after Shelby’s death, officials from his school released a statement informing students and parents about the loss.
"We were saddened to learn this morning of the death of Nigel Shelby, one of our 9th-grade students," said Huntsville High Principal Aaron King in a post Saturday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time."
Shelby’s family said the 15-year-old faced homophobic bullying from his peers.
Many activists have found the current rise in deaths by suicide among Black teens and children extremely troubling.
“Suicide in Black youth is on the rise and has reportedly reached twice that of White youth,” Nadia M. Richardson of the No More Martyrs organization posted to Facebook in the wake of Shelby’s death.
“Unfortunately, for evidence of this, you don’t have to look much further than the state of Alabama. I graduated from Huntsville High. I am still processing this loss. We have so much to understand and so much work to do. Racism, sexism, homophobia, classism; all of that plays a part. Bullying is a by-product of a world ill-equipped to include that which is deemed different.”
Rocket City Pride, the local LGBTQ+ Pride organization in Huntsville, released a statement saying they would be collecting donations to help Shelby’s mother with funeral expenses.
“We are heartbroken over the death of Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old freshman at Huntsville High School,” Rocket City Pride said in a statement. “Nigel took his life because he was bullied for being gay. There are no words that can be said to make sense of this devastating news.”
The GoFundMe has already raised over $27,000.
The Trevor Project is the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. After Shelby’s death, they released a statement encouraging adults to help students avoid feelings of isolation.
“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. 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, Amit Paley, CEO & executive director of The Trevor Project, said in a statement.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, contact the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1(800)273-8255 or text the crisis text line at 741-741.