DALLA S (CBSDFW.COM) - Makayla Marie Villatoro, 11, of Dallas was preparing to turn 12 on Thursday. Then she died by suicide Wednesday night. Her family says they didn't see it coming.
"She was fine, for her birthday, she got what she wanted... she wanted a PlayStation, she was getting a PlayStation," said her mother, Hellem Villatoro, as her shoulders bent in sorrow and with tears streaming unchecked. "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 to know that she's not there?"
In the world of parental nightmares, this one had laid her low. Makayla, she says, was the family's "light" -- always bubbly and upbeat.
"Always... always. She was always happy," Villatoro insisted, "you can ask anyone, when have you seen Makayla cry?"
Now, the 11-year-old's Pleasant Grove middle school plunged into mourning, as well. Sorrow seeping into the halls of Piedmont Global Academy, where Villatoro was a popular and smart sixth grade student.
"Even when you walk into the school building, you can feel the students are hurting and asking 'why,'" said Principal Letrice Portley. Portley says Villatoro was smart, had many friends and displayed no behavior that would lead teachers or counselors to be concerned.
She says she always seemed happy. "She was talkative... you weren't going to be in the cafeteria and not have a conversation or a 'hello' with Makayla. She was that kind of kid."
On Friday, extra counselors were on the campus to support students and staff. The students were encouraged to draw and write notes to work through their feelings. Portley has a message for parents as well: use the spring break downtime to bond.
"Talk to your children," urged Portley, "take some time to sit down and just check on everyone: children, young adults and all."
The Villatoros are sending the same message: sealed in sorrow.
"Watch your kids closely. Even if they say 'Mom, it's okay.' No. Push them. Push them. Look in their phones," added Villatoro. And don't be afraid to push for answers -- while you can.
"So many I will never get answered," said Villatoro, her words barely discernable as her body once again is wracked with sobs. "The main question is why? why?"
Dallas ISD working with local healthcare partners to provide mental health support for both students and families.
A reminder that the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
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