An Alabama teen, 15-year-old son Nigel Shelby tragically took his own life after he became the victim of constant homophobic bullying.
His mother, Camika Shelby, says she’s still “shocked.” “He was just special,” Camika told NBC News after his death on Thursday. “Nigel was the sweetest child. He was so outgoing. He was always full of joy, full of light.”
According to his mother, Nigel battled depression and struggled to accept his sexuality.
“Coming out at such a young age, it can be hard,” Camika told NBC News. “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.” But, his mothers love didn’t stop the bullying at school.
Camika had her final conversation with Nigel the night before he died. “He told me, ‘Mom I’m going to do better in school.’ He kissed me and told me that he loved me,” she recalled. Nigel was asleep when she left for work the next morning and when she returned home from work, she found her son dead.
Camika told NBC News that she never imagined her son would take his own life. “I’m kind of confused myself as to exactly what made him want to take his own life. I didn’t think he was going through that much. I knew he was depressed, we were going to see doctors… I’m still shocked.”
“He was struggling with his identity… depression is real — it’s really a disease,” Camika said.
“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,” she said of the homophobic bullying.
But Camika wants her son to be remembered for more than just how and why he died. “He was so much more than that. He was sunshine. It breaks my heart because he had so much more love to give,” she said.
Following the news of Nigel’s death, his school, Huntsville High School, released a statement in support of his family.
“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 statement read.
A GoFundMe page has been created in hopes of raising money for Nigel’s funeral arrangements.