(LA Blade) A 12-year-old boy took his own life after enduring apparent months of what his family and others labeled ugly vitriolic anti-LGBT bullying and abuse.
Eli Fritchley, a seventh-grader at Cascades Middle school located in Wartrace in Bedford County, was found on Nov. 28 by his mother who walked into her son’s bedroom and discovered his lifeless body.
In an emotional interview with Nashville ABC news affiliate WKRN 2‘s reporter Stephanie Langston, Fritchley’s parents described him “as a peaceful soul who wasn’t afraid to be himself.
“He didn’t care, or at least we thought he didn’t care, and that’s what’s really difficult for us because we thought he didn’t care,” his parents said as they teared up.
Eli painted his nails, loved the color pink and wore the same SpongeBob sweatshirt nearly every day.
“I think probably because he was in the same clothes every single day that they used that as a weapon,” his mom Debbey explained, saying he loved doing the laundry and cleaning his clothes every day.
His parents told Langston that their son was not accepted by his peer group at the school.
“He was told because he didn’t necessarily have a religion and that he said he was gay that he was going to go to Hell. They told him that quite often,” said Debbey.
His parents heard his cries but didn’t realize the extent of the pain that the youth was experiencing adding that their son never blamed anyone.
“It was really abusive. I don’t think it was ever physical. I think it was just words, but words hurt. They really hurt,” said his father Steve.
“This has just blindsided us. This is something we would have never, ever expected,” his mother added. “That’s been really hard. That image was terrible until we got to hold him yesterday. Now that image is gone because the only thing we could think of yesterday when we were kissing and loving on him was how angelic he looked. He absolutely looked angelic. He’s just an angel,” she cried adding, “We all failed him. We all failed him. It’s as simple as that.”
The parents told Langston that they are determined to stop bullying adding that they hope that raising awareness will ensure that other kids or their parents go through the heartache they are experiencing.
“I honestly think education, education, education for everyone where bullying is concerned because it is a problem, not just in Bedford County. It’s a problem everywhere,” they said.
According to WKRN 2, “the Fritchleys were regulars at Penalties Sports Bar & Grill in Shelbyville. The owners of the restaurant, Rob and Shondelle Lewis, say they are like family and they are heartbroken over the loss of Eli. In an effort to help, they created a Gofundme as the Fritchleys are looking to start a foundation to bring awareness and help educate people about bullying and suicide awareness.”
“I hope and pray, this unfortunate event we are going to make something of it. We’ve got to. We are going to come up with some sort of antibullying program through this Gofundme page where I pray to God this will not happen again,” said Rob.”
The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health examined depression and suicide risk among LGBTQ youth from rural areas and small towns compared to urban and suburban areas.
The Key Finding was that nearly half of LGBT youth in rural areas and small towns reported that their community was somewhat or very unaccepting of LGBT people compared to just over a quarter of those in urban and suburban areas. The data also shows that LGBT youth living in rural areas and small towns had slightly greater odds of depression and attempting suicide.