Though they haven’t been sharp increases, suicide rates for young Black people have been on the rise recently, according to statistics provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. That fact was coinciding with the recently heightened awareness surrounding what could be a larger and more troubling trend of Black kids killing themselves after being bullied at school.
That last part was true for Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old high school freshman in Alabama who reportedly committed suicide Friday. Reports attributed his death to nonstop bullying at school because he was gay. A GoFundMe page started the same had already exceeded its $10,000 goal, but that was likely little solace for Shelby’s family dealing with the death of their loved one for something that could have been prevented.
“Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University,” the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported. On top of that, the CDC found that more than “14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.”
Those dismal statistics have unfortunately been increasingly proving themselves accurate recently.
Earlier this month, Phillip Spruill Jr., an 11-year-old 5th grader from Philadelphia, killed himself after incessant bullying at school because of his weight.
“Because he was overweight, children made fun of him,” Spruill’s grandmother, Linda Lash-Smith, said April 12. “He was very sensitive on the inside. Those comments would really hurt him. He would try and not show the kids he was bothered but he would come to his mom, dad and to me and cry…. They were also making fun of his next youngest brother who was six, in 2 weeks he’ll be 7, calling him gay because he likes to dance and twirl around. They would make hurtful comments on the school bus and school saying, ‘Here comes fatty and faggot.’”
Lash-Smith said she and her family tried to stop the bullying but the school did not do enough.
Kevin Reese Jr., a 10-year-old from Houston, hanged himself to death in January because he was bullied at school through taunting and physical abuse, the New York Daily News reported at the time.
A 10-year-old girl in Colorado also killed herself after she was bullied in school in 2017. Ashawnty Davis, a promising fifth-grader at the Sunrise Elementary School part of the Cherry Creek School District in Aurora, Colorado, reportedly hanged herself in a closet at home after a video of a fight involving her was posted to an app that left her under the thumb of merciless bullies.
Davis’ family, like most families of bullied children, said they didn’t believe that the school was doing enough to stop bullies.
Bullying was also blamed for causing an 8-year-old boy in Ohio to kill himself in 2017. The mother of Gabriel Taye said her son was viciously bullied at a Cincinnati elementary school before he took his own life.
An overwhelming amount of kids who are bullied don’t report it, according to many educators. Most bullied children are at a higher risk of anxiety, depression and other negative outcomes. Particularly, race-related bullying is “significantly associated with negative emotional and physical health effects,” according to work published in the Journal of Health Psychology.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta said the chair of the Black Caucus in the State House has introduced legislation to establish anti-bullying in schools’ curriculums. Kenyatta also said if you or someone you know is being bullied “get connected with an anti-bullying organization as soon as possible… and reach out to your school districts and ask, ‘What is your policy around bullying? Is it included in your curriculum?’”
However, similar legislative efforts have stalled around the country.