Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old Alabama freshman, took his own life last week after dealing with depression and homophobic bullying at school. His mother, Camika Shelby, described the young man as “great spirit to have around.”
The Huntsville community, in Alabama, is mourning the loss of Nigel Shelby, a young man that has been described as outgoing and “full of light,” after he committed suicide on April 18.
According to Nigel’s mother, Camika Shelby, the teen struggled to accept his sexuality and battled depression. On top of that, he experienced anti-LGBTQ bullying at school.
"He was sunshine. It breaks my heart because he had so much more love to give.”
“Nigel was the sweetest child,” Camika told NBC News. “He was always dancing, always singing. He wanted to be a performer. I’m still shocked that my baby is not here.”
Shelby explained that, although her son brought happiness to everyone who met him, he had moments where he would sink into a dark place. He was getting medical attention, visiting psychiatrists regularly to get the help he needed.
Camika recalled the moment Nigel came out to her at 13.
“Coming out at such a young age, it can be hard,” she said. “You never know if you’re going to be accepted. He didn’t know if I was going to accept it — that’s my child, I love him. And I knew.”
She revealed that she thought her support would encourage Nigel to embrace his identity, but unfortunately, things at school were entirely different for the teen.
Still, Camika said she didn’t think he was going through that much.
The last night she spent with her son, Camika says Nigel told her he would do better in school and kissed her cheek. “And [he] told me that he loved me,” she recalled. “That was the last conversation that I had with my baby.”
The next day, Nigel would have gotten home from school around 4. Camika arrived around 6, and that’s when she found her dead son.
Camika Shelby is still in shock about her son's death. | Source: NBC News
Although the grieving mom doesn’t want to put all the blame on the bullying her son suffered, she wants people to understand that depression is a real illness, adding that:
“When you have a kid that’s already depressed and going through a lot emotionally for you to call him names that you shouldn’t call them or say stuff to them — it sometimes has a worse effect than it would on a child who’s not struggling with depression.”
Camika and Nigel Shelby. | Source: NBC News
Camika wants her son to be remembered for more than just how and why he died, she said:
“He was so much more than that. He was sunshine. It breaks my heart because he had so much more love to give.”
Camika and Nigel Shelby. | Source: NBC News
After news hits of Nigel’s suicide, Huntsville High School, where Nigel was enrolled as a freshman, released the following statement on Facebook:
“Our sympathy, thoughts, and prayers are with Nigel’s family. Parents, please talk to your students about Nigel’s death. Know and be aware of changes in your child. Talk to them about what they see, words they speak and actions they can take to make a difference. We must be better.”
The post is filled with angered comments from parents demanding the school to identify and take action against Nigel’s bullies.
Joseph Vivian is an openly gay senior student at the school, talked to WAFF48 and raised questions about whether the school district is ignoring or diminishing the treatment that LGBTQ+ students receive at the school.
“The way this school treats the people of our community is not acceptable. They turn victims into perpetrators and blame them for being bullied,” Vivian said.
“I’ve gone to administration, I’ve gone to counselors. They blame you for the problems that you face, sometimes they even put in there that it’s your choice, that you’re too sensitive, that if you’re going to live this lifestyle that you’ll have to grow a thick skin."
Joseph Vivian, an openly gay senior student at Huntisville High School. | Source: waff.com
District spokesman Keith Ward, told the outlet that the district has several resources in place to “tackle prejudice, bullying and inter-group conflict including PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports) No Place for Hate anti-bias & diversity education, and Peer Helper programs.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, suicide is the second leading cause of death among U.S. teenagers. Members of the LGBTQ community are at high risk due to the impact of social stigma, family rejection, bullying, stigma, harassment, and abuse.
Recent studies show these rates have increased for Black children.
If you’re a young LGBTQ person and need to talk to someone, call The Trevor Project’s 24-hour crisis hotline for youth at 1-866-488-7386.
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