An El Paso teenager took his life earlier this month after being bullied because of his sexuality, according to family and friends.
Brandon Elizares was 16 years old and a sophomore at Andress High School. His mother Zachalyn said Brandon's younger brother discovered his body inside his room. He had apparently died after swallowing pills. It's still unknown what kind of pills were in Brandon's system.
Brandon's friend Shaquail Reed told ABC-7 he had been bullied because he was open about his homosexuality.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, gay and lesbian teens are three to six times more likely to try to kill themselves than heterosexual teens.
Elizares's loved ones want to make sure his story becomes more than a statistic.
"The number one thing people need to know is there are resources out there," said Daniel Rollings with PFLAG El Paso. PFLAG is Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays, a national non-profit organization that offers support group sessions in the borderland.
Link:PFLAG El Paso.
Another group working to offer support is the El Paso County Sheriff's Office Anti Bullying Coalition.
"The schools were complaining that there was a lot of bullying and hazing going on," said coalition chairman Cmdr. Jesus Campa.
Campa said the coalition has done school presentations, summits, and even filmed Public Service Announcements against bullying that are running in borderland movie theatres.
ABC-7 found some warning signs and tips for parents from the government website stopbullying.gov:
"Here is a brief summary of signs to look for when you suspect that your child is being bullied: Unexplainable injuries Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch. Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
Here are signs to look for if you suspect that your child IS a bully: Get into physical or verbal fights Have friends who bully others Are increasingly aggressive Get sent to the principal's office or to detention frequently Have unexplained extra money or new belongings Blame others for their problems Don't accept responsibility for their actions Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
Statistics from the 2008-2009 School Crime Supplement show that an adult was notified in only about a third of bullying cases. Kids don't tell adults for many reasons: Bullying can make a child feel helpless. Kids may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale. Kids may fear backlash from the kid who bullied them. Bullying can be a humiliating experience. Kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak. Kids who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand. Kids may fear being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect kids from bullying, and kids can fear losing this support."