London – The teenage suicide rate in Britain has almost doubled in eight years, it emerged on Sunday, as ministers vowed to crack down on the internet giants accused of fuelling youngsters’ distress.
New figures show the rate among children aged between 15 and 19 has risen, despite falling for most other age groups. The Provisional Office for National Statistic figures for last year reveals that suicides are running at more than five in 100 000 among teenagers in England.
The ministers’ threat comes after the grieving father of 14-year-old Molly Russell accused Instagram of ‘helping to kill her’ after the schoolgirl took her own life.
Ian Russell, 55, of Harrow, north-west London, said Molly had gone to bed in a good mood but decided to kill herself after looking at troubling images that night. He added: ‘I have no doubt that Instagram helped kill my daughter.’
Some instances where teenagers’ suicides have been linked to social media activity:
Sophie Parkinson took her life aged 13 in 2014 after studying suicide guides online.
The teenager, who lived near Dundee, had her iPhone confiscated by her mother after she posted pictures of her cut arms and accessed images of people hanging themselves.
But Sophie was still able to use her iPad, which she needed for school. Her mother Ruth, 47, said tech firms needed to be held responsible.
She said: ‘You wouldn’t allow someone to build a school and not protect the children inside. So why should these firms target our kids then do nothing to keep them safe?’
Molly Russell had shown no obvious signs of depression when she took her life at the age of 14 in 2017.
It was later discovered she had been viewing content on Instagram which glorified self-harm and suicide. Last month, her TV director father Ian Russell, 55, accused the social media site of ‘helping to kill her’.
Molly was found dead just hours after handing in her homework at school and returning to her home.
Mr Russell, of Harrow, north west London, said she had gone to bed in a good mood but decided to kill herself after looking at troubling images that night.
She used her phone to access Instagram in her room. One account she followed featured an image of a blindfolded girl, seemingly with bleeding eyes, hugging a teddy bear. The caption read: ‘This world is so cruel and I don’t wanna to see it any more.’
Mr Russell said: ‘I have no doubt that Instagram helped kill my daughter. She had so much to offer and that’s gone.’
Aspiring nurse Zoe Watts was found dead in an NHS ward where she was being treated for mental illness.
The 19-year-old’s family later discovered she had posted distressing messages on social media accounts.
On one of her Instagram accounts, she said: ‘I am hopeless and self-destruction is my only way of coping.’ The teenager from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, who died in 2017, posted on another page: ‘Maybe I am just not cut out for life and I will be like this forever – a fat suicidal failure’
Zoe, who also suffered anorexia, was a former gymnast who had been a member of the GB trampolining squad.
Her father Keith Watts said the biggest problem was Instagram, where links can direct users to external sites encouraging anorexia, self-harm, and suicide. He added: ‘[It] became a hidden corridor of information for her.’
Daniel Long, 15, hanged himself after watching an online suicide tutorial.
The A-grade student had ‘Googled how to kill himself’ after becoming stressed about his upcoming GCSEs.
His grieving mother has condemned technology giants for abetting Daniel’s death.
Emma Oliver, 44, said: ‘There needs to be control over this and this information needs to be removed.’
She told how she was cooking a Sunday roast last year when she heard a bang upstairs and discovered her son had tried to hang himself. He died two days later in hospital.
Clauidu Cristea, 18, jumped into a river and drowned after watching videos that encouraged viewers to take their own lives to be with God.
The ‘polite, introverted and sensitive’ boy was found by his father Marian last year after he left a note at home saying he wanted to ‘travel back to my heavenly father’.
Norfolk coroner Johanna Thompson returned a verdict of suicide, saying it was clear Claudiu had been influenced by videos on Facebook. Claudiu’s mother Vasilic said: ‘I don’t like Facebook. I want for people to not believe Facebook all the time. Be careful.’
Ursula Keogh was just 11 when she leapt to her death last year after viewing ‘horrific and disturbing’ images on Instagram.
She started self-harming and began visiting suicide websites after starting a new school in Halifax, West Yorkshire.
Her mother confiscated her phone, provoking a furious reaction. Nicola Harlow, 53, said: ‘I believe that Instagram content was a factor in my daughter’s death. If I could turn back time I would have destroyed her phone. Instagram creates a fantasy life and children are too young to realise that it’s not real.’