The mother of a central Iowa teenager who was hospitalized in critical condition Monday believes her son attempted suicide because he was bullied for being gay.
Sheryl Moore said her 16-year-old son, Alexander Betts Jr., attempted to kill himself Friday because of the bullying, The Des Moines Register reported. The newspaper reported he was being kept alive to repair damage to his organs in order for them to be donated.
Betts remains on life support at Blank Children’s Hospital as of Monday, a hospital spokeswoman told The Associated Press.
“It’s the most painful thing I have ever been through in my entire life,” Moore said. “I would not wish that on my worst enemy.”
Moore said she wants to use her son’s experience to educate people about bullying. She said she wants to help others the way her son did.
“He spent his entire life trying to make people feel good,” Moore said.
Friends said Betts was constantly ridiculed because he was gay, half African-American and born with a cleft lip.
Steve Pettit, the high school’s principal, said he could not say if Betts had reported being bullied. Pettit said the school takes such incidents seriously and has procedures in place for allegations of bullying.
“We are bringing in support staff to assist students and just honestly listen to them,” he said. “Anytime you lose somebody, especially a young person, it leaves a mark on a lot of people.”
The issue of teen suicide has gained traction in recent years in Iowa. Gov. Terry Branstad organized a suicide prevention summit in November to address recent deaths.