Molly was found dead in her bedroom in November 2017. She had shown no obvious signs of severe mental health problems in the months before her death and had spoken to her family about a number of things she was looking forward to in the coming months.
Since Molly’s death her family have learnt that Molly was accessing online material linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide. Molly received emails and suggestions from social media platforms directing her to more material of this nature which her family believe contributed to her state of mind and her death.
Molly’s father Ian Russell has been speaking to the BBC about the family’s quest to learn more about Molly’s online activity and the material available on such platforms relating the mental illness and self-harm.
Yesterday, the Minister for Suicide Prevention, Jackie Doyle-Price announced that the government aims to reduce the number of self-inflicted deaths by ten percent by 2020. She also called on technology companies to do more to block harmful content and to sign-post people to help and support.
The inquest into Molly’s death is due to be held later this year. Her family is being represented by Merry Varney, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day.
Ian Russell said:
“We are very keen to raise awareness of the harmful and disturbing content that is freely available to young people online. Not only that, but the social media companies, through their algorithms, expose young people to more and more harmful content, just from one click on one post. In the same way that someone who has shown an interest in a particular sport may be shown more and more posts about that sport, the same can be true of topics such as self-harm or suicide.
“We welcome the minister’s announcement regarding the intention to reduce self-inflicted deaths and we echo her call to social media companies to be more responsible in relation to harmful content and to do more to ensure that those viewing such content are also provided with prominent information about accessing help and support.”
Merry Varney, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day who is representing the Russell family, said:
“We have seen through our work the significant impact that social media can have on young people’s mental health. We are pleased that this issue is now being highlighted, driving up awareness and hope that it leads to greater protection and harm reduction measures for young people online.”
Ged Flynn, Chief Executive of national charity, PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, said:
“All too often we hear from families bereaved by the suicide of a young person and where pro-suicide sites have been too easily accessed. Automatic signposting that alerts and encourages vulnerable young people to suicide is totally irresponsible. Suicide is everyone's business. It is imperative that those who profit from it must be made to be more accountable. Suicide is the main cause of death of young people under 35.”