The dad of a Hatch End child who committed suicide said Instagram played a part in his daughter’s death.
Molly Russell, 14, a Hatch End High School student, took her own life in 2017.
Her dad, Ian, has since spoken of how he “has no doubt that Instagram helped kill my daughter.”
Upon Molly’s death, her family looked into her Instagram account and found distressing material about depression and suicide.
In an interview with the BBC, Ian reflected on his daughter’s death, saying: “She handed her homework in that night, she packed her bags and was preparing to go to school the next day.
“And then when we woke up the next morning, she was dead.
“She had so much to offer, and that’s gone.
”It’s just very sad, and I think you realise in an instant that your life will never be the same.”
Ian then spoke of after Molly’s death, saying: “Since her death, we’ve been able to look back, and just scratch the surface at some of the social media accounts that she had been following.”
In the BBC clip, Ian pulled up an Instagram post that he remembers seeing on his daughter’s history, which has a disturbing image of a girl which reads: “This world is so cruel, I don’t want to see it anymore.”
Ian said: “There were accounts from people who were depressed, or self-harming, or suicidal.
“And she had quite a lot of such content. Some of that content seemed quite positive, perhaps groups of people who were trying to help each other out, find ways to remain positive and stop self-harming.
“But some of that content is shocking in that it encourages self-harm, it links self-harm to suicide, and I have no doubt that Instagram helped kill my daughter.”
There is a plethora of disturbing content that can be found on Instagram, many of which have videos of self-harming and bleak images of suicide.
Ian added: “The posts on those accounts are often so black and white, they’re sort of fatalistic, ‘Join our club, you’re depressed, I’m depressed, there’s lots of us. Come inside this virtual club.’
“We didn’t know anything like that could possibly exist on a platform like Instagram. And they’re still there widely, they’re easy to find, not hidden.
”And I think 10s of thousands of children in this country are looking at them.”
Facebook, as Instagram’s parent company, responded to Ian’s claims through Facebook executive Steve Hatch, who said in a BBC interview:
“The first thing I’d like to say is just what a difficult story that was to read (Molly’s story). Like anyone, I was deeply upset.
“This is a really complicated issue. We work with experts and help design the policies around images of self-harm, which is an incredibly tricky area to try and get right.
“What the experts tell us in this is that when those images are posted by people who are clearly in a really difficult situation, often they can be posted because they’re seeking help or seeking support, and in those cases, that can be very useful and those images are allowed on the platform.
“But then we also directly follow up with the support that those individuals seek. What we don’t allow is anything that’s sensationalising or glamorising.
“We’re also constantly reviewing these policies to make sure we’re getting them right.”
He added: “I’m deeply sorry for how this must’ve been such a devastating event for their family.
“Anyone and everyone I’ve spoken to feels exactly the same.
“What I see on Instagram is an environment that is supportive, creative, and while we know we’ve always got to work harder to take down the wrong kind of images, we also know it is a place that gives tremendous support to people.”
Ged Flynn, who runs a suicide prevention charity for children, Papyrus, also had his say, adding: “Suicide isn’t a hashtag. It’s an unimaginable, devastating tragedy.
“The law around suicide is very clear – aiding and abetting and encouraging someone to end their life by suicide is illegal. Anybody who, on or offline, through imagery or words, verbal or written, is at least potentially complicit.
“I would say they (Instagram) need to look long and hard at changing their algorithms to save lives. And do it now.”
Photo courtesy of BBC