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LGBTQ teen dies by suicide amidst bullying

by Shelby Toth - Executive Editor
Tue, Apr 30th 2019 10:35 pm
gone too soon Nigel Shelby came out to his mother two years ago about his sexuality. Since then, his mother would take him to therapy to deal with depression and the bullying he received in school.
gone too soon Nigel Shelby came out to his mother two years ago about his sexuality. Since then, his mother would take him to therapy to deal with depression and the bullying he received in school.

Nigel Shelby was a 15-year-old teenager from Huntsville, Alabama when he died by suicide on Thursday, April 18. At 15, you’re in early high school and should be able to start thinking about your passions, what you might want to do after graduation and if you’re going to go to the big sports game that weekend. Suicide should not be forced into your mind and it is tragic that kids so young consider taking their own lives. Nigel was bullied for his sexuality, as he was an out member of the LGBTQ community.

According to NBC News, Nigel “struggled with depression,” and was frequently made fun of in school. His mother, Camika Shelby, described him as “sweet, respectable, well-mannered and had a heart of gold.”

From his tragic death, an anti-bullying campaign has been spread through social media and is taking hold in his home city of Huntsville, according to NBC News.

Steps to address this tragedy are clearly necessary, but unfortunately, any social media activity regarding the LGBTQ community can turn into the breeding ground for more hate.

As reported by Buzzfeed News, one man took it upon himself to spread hateful rhetoric on a Rocket City Pride Facebook post about Nigel’s death and different ways the community could support his single mother. The man, Jeff Graves, posted a long message explaining how he was “offended” that the LGBT movement even existed, and that he had a right to be offended.

“Liberty. Guns. Bible. Trump. BBQ. That’s my kind of LGBTQ,” Graves’ post began.

The kicker? Graves is a sheriff’s deputy that works in Madison County, Alabama, where Huntsville is primarily centered. This man took time out of his day to be offended by people expressing sorrow over the death of a 15-year-old boy in the county that he is supposed to protect and serve.

Anybody who hears this story should be outraged and sad. A teenager was driven to suicide by his peers around him, who probably learned such hateful rhetoric from the adults they view in their area, such as Graves. How can a parent teach their child to be kind to others and not to bully if they are able to see a local cop, someone they are told to look up to, acting like a playground bully from behind the safety of his screen?

Graves has been placed on administrative leave until an investigation into his actions has concluded, according to NBC News.

The problem is, he and so many others are still willingly continuing this cycle of bullying and hatred that has already claimed so many LGBTQ lives. According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ teenagers are at much higher risks for dying by suicide than their heterosexual peers. LGBTQ youth are “almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.” That statistic doesn’t even include transgender teens, where the rate is undoubtedly higher. Also according to The Trevor Project, “each episode of LGBTQ victimization… increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.”

These numbers are alarming. Moreover the rates of suicide including all teenagers are shocking, with one out of six students grades 9 through 12 nationwide “seriously considering” suicide within the past year.

There are already multiple anti-bullying campaigns in place throughout schools in America, but they are clearly not doing enough. It doesn’t help when top leadership both locally and nationally present themselves as nothing more than big bullies. Teaching children to look up and trust the people who are supposed to be in charge should be something parents can do, but that is not possible in the United States.

Hopefully, as Nigel’s mother wished for in an interview with NBC News, his legacy can be more than a bullied teen who died by suicide. This should be a serious wake up call to not only Huntsville, but the country as a whole. If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


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