Mom Looks to Raise Awareness After Daughter Dies by Suicide the Night Before Her 12th Birthday

Hellem Villatoro is asking parents to look deeply into their child's mental health after her daughter, Makayla Marie Villatoro, died by suicide a day before her 12th birthday.

According to KTVT, Makayla's death on March 10 came as the popular Texas sixth-grader had been looking forward to getting a new video game system for her birthday.

 "She was always happy," Villatoro told KTVT.  "It's not right… I should be celebrating her birthday, not mourning my daughter. It's the worst pain. It's the worst pain in the world, how can you even go to sleep [knowing] that she's not there?"

According to a GoFundMe set up to help pay for Makayla's funeral costs, the family believes bullying may have played a factor in the young girl's death.

"Bullying is an event that has become all too familiar in many schools," reads a description on the donation page, which has raised nearly $13,000 as of Monday afternoon.

"It is an experience that no one should have to live through but mental health and suicide affects every family," it continued. "It is in these times of loss and sadness that when you see people coming together to help one another make it through, to support the people we care for."

The National Bullying Prevention Center says bullied children are at higher risk of developing depression, anxiety and sleep difficulties. They can also experience lower academic achievement and become more likely to drop out of school.

PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to provide avenues for our readers to pay it forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about Causes — hubs that bring charities, individuals, donors and corporate partners together to help people in need — visit GoFundMe.

"Watch your kids closely," Villatoro said. "Even if they say, 'Mom, it's okay.' No. Push them. Push them. Look in their phones."

KTVT said counselors were available at Pleasant Grove Middle School for students having a difficult time with the tragedy. They were being encouraged to draw or write to help process their emotions.

Villatoro, meanwhile, is still asking questions and wondering how something like this could have happened.

"So many I will never get answered," she told KTVT. "The main question is why? why?"

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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