Hailey Nailor’s suicide an ‘unimaginable’ loss to family, friends in Danbury
DANBURY — Friends and family remember Hailey Nailor as a caring, funny teenager who loved rap music and even wrote her own lyrics.
They say she was surrounded by friends and family who supported and loved her, although she may have felt otherwise, through her years-long battle with mental illnesses and trauma.
The 16-year-old took her own life early Saturday afternoon. The incident has shocked the city and peers at Danbury High School. Her death has left her family reeling from an “unimaginable” loss, they said.
“She had more friends than she would acknowledge,” said Haley’s father, Kevin Nailor. “She was surrounded by people who loved her and cared about her.”
School officials are investigating whether bullying was a factor to the suicide. District leaders said the social media comments posted immediately after the suicide and shared widely throughout the community were “disturbing.”
Kevin Nailor, who teaches in the Bronx, N.Y., agrees social media fuels bullying at schools everywhere but does not believe it played a role in his daughter’s death. He said she simply did not have the chance to start at a new school with appropriate services to help her manage her illnesses.
“Now we’ll never know what could have been or may have been,” he said. “Everyone’s left wondering, what if?”
Friends described Nailor as funny and caring, attentive to those closest to her.
Karina Rivadeneira, 17, of Brewster, N.Y., met Nailor about two years ago when they were being treated at an area hospital.
“I’m very devastated,” she said. “She was more than just a friend to me. I loved her more than anything. She was kind, funny, and so silly, but in a good way. My heart breaks knowing she’s gone, but I know she’s in better place now. My prayers go to her and her family.”
Nailor was born in White Plains, N.Y., but lived almost her entire life in Danbury with her mother, Erin, and younger brother, Jack.
She attended King Street Intermediate School and later Broadview Middle School, where she took an interest in basketball and music, Kevin Nailor said.
But when Nailor entered her teens she became dogged by anxiety, mood disorder and depression that made school difficult and led to behavioral problems at home and with teachers, Kevin Nailor said.
She ran away three times, each time becoming the subject of a Silver Alert reported by media outlets across the region before she returning home each time, he said.
Over the past two years, her struggles with mental illness became increasingly worse.
She was in and out of hospitals in Danbury and New York more than two dozen times for acute care or threats to harm herself or someone else, Kevin Nailor said. She wouldn’t take her prescribed medications and she was placed on probation after stealing her parents’ car and her mother’s debit card, according to Kevin Nailor, although juvenile court records are not made available publicly.
But she improved when she attended three different long-term residential programs and discussed with a therapist and eventually her parents a significant trauma experienced during one of the times she ran away.
“It started to make so much more sense,” Kevin Nailor said. “We bonded and rallied around her and had more of an understanding. We just wish we would have been able to know sooner, maybe certain things would not have happened.”
On Friday, a meeting with her therapist and probation officer at home spiraled into more threats to harm herself, Kevin Nailor said. She was admitted to Danbury Hospital, Kevin Nailor said, and released nine hours later. Hospital officials declined to comment on the stay, citing patient confidentiality rules.
The next day, Nailor’s grandmother brought her to the Danbury Fair mall for an errand. But while her grandmother thought she was inside the Apple store, Hailey Nailor was posting videos to Snapchat, threatening to harm herself and argued no one cared for her.
Danbury Police and mall security were alerted to the videos and rushed to the garage at 1:20 p.m. Saturday to try to intervene, but it was too late.
Services for Nailor have not yet been scheduled, but her friend Maria Garcia has said she plans to organize a candlelight vigil Saturday at the mall. She has asked visitors to wear white and blue, Nailor’s favorite colors.
“She was a great friend to me and always had my back through everything as well to many others,” Garcia posted on Facebook. “It’s heartbreaking to know she went the way she did and I wish with every ounce of me I could of helped her make the right decision or someone else could have.”
Staff reporters Kendra Baker and Julia Perkins contributed to this report.
Suicide prevention lifeline
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or needs emotional support, help is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The lifeline is free, confidential and available any time by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by visiting www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.