Belfast Telegraph

Survivors and bereaved of online bullying send out heartfelt support

By Amanda Ferguson

The mother of a girl who took her own life after she was blackmailed into exposing herself online has said her "heart rebroke into a million pieces" after hearing of the tragic death of Ronan Hughes.

Amanda Todd died by suicide aged 15 at her home in British Columbia, Canada, in October 2012.

Before her death, Amanda posted a video on YouTube using flash cards to explain how she had been blackmailed by an online predator.

It has been watched millions of times, and her story made headlines around the world.

The schoolgirl killed herself after images of her were posted on Facebook.

In a message to the Hughes family, Carol Todd wrote: "My heart rebroke into a million pieces for what your family is going through with the loss of your precious son.

"The days ahead will be difficult as you try to make sense of what has happened to your family.

"I sometimes still feel that it is a dream and I will wake up. But as time passes (and you may not think that now), you will become stronger and possibly more determined to make sure that these kinds of incidences don't happen to others.

"It is unfortunate that we have become this group of parents who have lost a child due to cyberabuse of the internet. But we have grouped together to be support for one another globally around the world. It is sometimes hard to have a conversation with others who don't understand what you are going through or what you are feeling or thinking.

"I have so many more words to share but I just want your family to know how much you are cared about in this time of turmoil. Remember all the good memories."

Other survivors of online bullying and bereaved parents have also spoken of their deep sadness at Ronan's tragic death.

Belfast woman Una Crossen previously told the Belfast Telegraph of her legal battle to ensure secretly filmed explicit footage of her was not circulated on the internet.

Last night Una said issues around online trolling, cyberbullying, revenge porn and inappropriate distribution of images were on the increase and needed to be taken more seriously by the police, the Government and all other authorities.

"My heart goes out to the Hughes family," Una said.

"It is terrible what they must be going through.

"Something needs to be done about pictures and films being distributed without people's consent or being used to bribe people.

"I know what it's like to feel desperate and alone because of this.

"In my experience I felt let down by the police. I have not had justice.

"I hope other people feeling distressed for whatever reason can seek support and speak to their loved ones to get through whatever challenges they face."

Gabbi Dix's 14-year-old daughter Izzy was intimidated by trolls telling her to "go die".

The English teenager took her own life on September 17, 2013.

Gabbi said: "I send my heartfelt love to Ronan Hughes' family. I want to reach out and hug them.

"No family should lose a child in that way and no child should feel that desperate.

"The loss is not comparable to anything else in the world, to feel completely hopeless and helpless."

Gabbi says online bullying is not being taken seriously enough and requires a multi-agency approach and greater societal awareness.

"We have had so many parents get in touch with the Izzy Dix Anti-Bullying Memorial Group and they don't know where to go next.

"There needs to be very early education in school as the situation is getting worse and is not going away.

"I cannot stress enough about having high privacy setting on social media and monitoring online usage."

Catherine McKee from Clonmore, Dungannon, set up the Niamh Louise Foundation in 2006 after she lost her daughter to suicide in 2005 when she was just 15.

"Mental health and suicide are everyone's responsibility within the community," Catherine said.

"It is important for us all to watch out for our loved ones and to spot any signs of poor mental health, thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm, and encourage the person to seek help.

"We are finding within the Niamh Louise Foundation that permission is the key word.

"A person in crisis quite often requires permission to speak about their thoughts and to allow them to seek the right intervention and recover."

Diana Award Anti-Bullying champion and Sunday Life Spirit of NI Award nominee Anita Dennison from Newry runs the Don't Bully online campaign.

"I know that cyberbullying can be a really horrible thing," said the 18-year-old.

"I have experienced it myself and it made me feel as though everyone was against me.

"My advice when you see nasty stuff is don't believe it, in particular if it is anonymous accounts, because nobody knows you better than yourself.

"All the negativity isn't going to do young people any good so try to keep a positive mind.

"Speak to people, whether its ChildLine, parents, anyone to get through.

"Sadly for Ronan he didn't see light at the end of the tunnel, but you can get through it."

Amanda Todd's video on YouTube is entitled: My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary.

The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

You can also access the Lifeline website at  

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