It has now been a week since the BBC broadcast a film about the suicide of Molly Russell in 2017. The story has prompted people all over the country to sit up and take notice of the serious danger that social media can pose for young people at risk of suicide.
The public have been rightly shocked by some of the material that is not only available to young people on sites such as Instagram and Pinterest, but sometimes actively suggested to them by complicated algorithms.
Since the report on the BBC, Papyrus, the UK’s leading charity for the prevention of young suicide, have been contacted by 30 other families, all of whom lost children to suicide and believe that the content that their child saw on social media may have contributed to their deaths.
Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. Around 200 children of school age take their own lives every year, almost 4 a week.
As a society we must do more to ensure that young people thinking of self-harm or ending their lives are provided with the right support and prevented from viewing the kind of distressing material that we have seen in the news this week.
On Sunday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote to social media companies, calling on them to “step up and purge this content once and for all.”
The coverage of this issue in the news this week has put pressure on social media companies to face up to their responsibilities and has been an important reminder of the hundreds of children who die by suicide every year.
We hope that it will lead to action from social media companies to take life-saving action to remove content which encourages self-harm and suicide from their platforms.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or worried about someone you know please seek support.
Young people can call the Papyrus Hopeline on 0800 068 4141.
The Samaritans also offer confidential advice on 116 123.
Young Minds have also put together a helpful guide for parents.