A 17-year-old boy from California killed himself four months after his dad died of COVID after blaming himself for the fatal infection by asking his family to attend his high school pep rally.
In August 2021, the Reyes family of five – mom Stephanie, dad Anthony Sr, 46, and their three teenage kids – were brimming with hope for a bright future as they prepared to move into their new home in Whittier.
But the Los Angeles family have been struck by two terrible tragedies in the four month interim, after Anthony Sr succumbed to the virus shortly after being diagnosed in September. Tragically, his son Anthony Jr, 17, took his own life earlier this month, with his grieving mom Stephanie Reyes devastated by the double loss.
He blamed himself for his dad’s death, with his mom saying Anthony Jr had been further traumatized by being the last person to see his ailing dad in hospital before his death.
Reyes, 37, has been left raising her two surviving daughters, Reyna and Marissa, on her own.
Scroll down for video
Anthony Reyes Sr, 46 (left), a married dad-of-four, died of COVID on September 11, 2021, and his son, Anthony Jr, 17 (right), died by suicide four months later
Stephanie Reyes, 37, says her son was blaming himself for his father’s death because he had invited his family to a pep rally, where they all likely contracted COVID
The grieving mom said the 17-year-old considered himself responsible for his father’s COVID diagnosis because he had invited his family to a pep rally at school, where they all likely contracted the illness, reported Los Angeles Times.
Anthony Jr struggled with depression, and in August 2020 described in a school essay how the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on his mental state because he was unable to see his friends and girlfriend because of quarantine.
The Reyes family were unvaccinated against COVID because they were concerned about their various medical conditions and possible side effects from the jab.
Anthony Reyes Sr was 46 and working at a power plant when he came down with the virus in late August, along with his wife and children.
Within a week of his diagnosis, the father-of-three, who had a pre-existing heart condition, was in a hospital on a ventilator.
Anthony Jr, known as ‘Papi,’ struggled with depression during the pandemic. He wrote about his mental health issues in a school essay in 2020
The Reyeses, pictured when the children were younger, were unvaccinated against COVID because they had concerns about medical conditions and side effects
Stephanie said before her husband succumbed to the virus on September 11, she made a fateful decision to allow their son to see him one last time so he could bid farewell.
‘My son wanted to go see his dad [and] against my better judgment, I let him go. It was the worst mistake I did,’ she told Fox 11.
Anthony Jr was said to have been haunted by the image of his dying father in his hospital bed, with blood pooled in the corner of his eye.
‘He felt guilty,’ Stephanie said of her son’s mindset in the weeks and months after his father’s death. ‘He felt like he was the one who got us sick. He felt like he was the reason why his dad was gone and we talked to him all the time, and told him “It wasn’t your fault.”‘
The widowed mom said she desperately tried to get professional help for her son as he buckled under worsening depression, but all the therapists she contacted were completely booked up.
At 4am on December 28, Stephanie woke up to see light in her son’s bedroom.
Stephanie (2nd R) said she tried to get help for her struggling son after her husband’s death but could not find an available therapist
‘I knock on the door to his room and I’m like, ‘Hey, kid, it’s 4 in the morning, what are you doing?”‘ Stephanie recounted.
The mom then realized that Anthony Jr, whom she affectionally called ‘Papi,’ had taken his own life.
‘He was gone. I couldn’t believe my baby’s gone,’ she raid.
As she prepares to lay her son to rest on Saturday, Stephanie is speaking out publicly about her loss to raise awareness among parents about the dangers of depression in children, and how to recognize the first signs of trouble before it is too late.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help the single mother with funeral expenses.
- For confidential support call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255