Now that they lost their beloved son to suicide, the Fritchleys have one message for the society—to stop bullying their peers.
Trigger warning: This story contains instances of homophobia and death by suicide that the readers may find disturbing.
Bullying is one of the most violent ways to target and harm people and it is the failure of society to deal with this phenomenon. It has been highlighted time and again that bullying comes in many forms and the consequences of bullying can be terrible. It can either have direct consequences like physical harm or it can have a devastating emotional and adverse mental health impact on the bullied and people who witness it.
Bullying generally happens when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship. One of the effects of bullying is that it engulfs people with fear. As a result, many people, who do not fit the societal norms with respect to appearance, sexuality, gender, behavior, or anything else, find it hard to express their true selves fearing that they might not be accepted by their peers.
However, there are some people who find the courage to express their truest selves without fearing anyone. But in some cases, they have to pay a huge price—even losing their lives. One boy, who was constantly bullied by his classmates for being different than them, recently died by suicide, reports WHNT. He was gay child and that prompted his peers to bully him mercilessly.
Eli Fritchley, a seventh-grader at Cascades Middle school, in Wartrace in Bedford County, played the trombone in the marching band. His parents describe 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.
The parents of 12-year-old Eli Fritchley say his peers repeatedly told him he was going to Hell because of his sexuality. #NOH8 https://t.co/6PX8KSjqsi— NOH8 Campaign (@NOH8Campaign) December 7, 2021
The pre-teen always painted his nails and was in love with the color pink. He also wore the same SpongeBob sweatshirt nearly every day. Eli was one of a kind and that is probably why his peers had a hard time accepting him. “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.
“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.
Debby and her husband added that they heard his cries, but they had no idea how tough it really has been for him. “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. But despite going through so much, Eli never blamed anyone. “This has just blindsided us. This is something we would have never, ever expected," the distraught parents added.
TW // suicide— Complex (@Complex) December 8, 2021
A 12-year-old boy in Tennessee has died by suicide after he was bullied by classmates for being gay. RIP, Eli Fritchley. Our thoughts are with the family. 🕊 https://t.co/85T2qMqI2h
Eli’s mother made the tragic discovery Sunday night in his bedroom. “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.
An angel she says was loved more than he realized, yet failed by everyone in his circle. “We all failed him. We all failed him. It’s as simple as that.”
Bullying is indeed very dangerous and the Fritchleys have one wish—a plead to stop bullying so that no one ever has to go through this kind of heartache. “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.”
My heart yall.— DAT' YOSHI DECEMBER (day 8/30) (@trihex) December 7, 2021
A 12-year old committed suicide due to insistent, nonstop bullying at his Middle School in Bedford County, Tennessee — his name is #EliFritchley.
Their GoFundMe will create an anti-bullying campaign in his honor. All my donations next 48hr will
They are now looking to start a foundation to bring awareness and help educate people about bullying and suicide awareness and to help them achieve this goal they have set up a GoFundMe page.
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe | Justice for Eli We Must Stop the Bullying