Police find Instagram group ‘led to self-harm and suicidal thoughts’ in teens

Police have uncovered a social media group used by teenagers whose name refers to suicide, it has been reported.

Twelve girls aged between 12 and 16 are thought to be part of an Instagram message thread which police fear led to “suicidal crises” and “serious self-harm”.

The girls, from southern England, had conversations in an Instagram group whose title mentions the words “suicide” and “missing”.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said the group was not removed because the content of the messages in it does not break the social media platform’s rules.

Police discovered the message thread after three of the girls went missing and were found unwell in London.

They had travelled to train to the capital and, after being found unwell in a street, they were taken by ambulance to hospital for emergency treatment.

According to a police report, one of the girls mentioned they had met online and had discussed suicide.

Officers found the Instagram group after examining digital devices and found that seven of the 12 members had self-harmed prior to being traced by the police, BBC News reports.

Police said that “peer-to-peer influence increased suicidal ideation amongst the children involved to the extent that several escalated to suicidal crises and serious self-harm.”

Facebook said it was co-operating with the police and found no evidence that the group’s members were breaking Instagram’s rules around suicide and self-harm.

A spokesperson for British Transport Police which led the investigation said: “Officers were called to Chingford station in the early hours of March 1st, following concern for the welfare of three teenage girls. They were taken to hospital for medical assessment and were later discharged and we worked to ensure relevant safeguarding measures were in place.

“An investigation is currently ongoing into a report of a social media page encouraging harmful behaviour, which is also believed to be linked to a second concern for welfare incident in London later that day.

“The page has now been deleted, and these are believed to be localised incidents. British Transport Police are working closely with partner agencies to ensure the continued safeguarding of those involved.

“While there is no suggestion of this reaching a wider network, we’d urge parents to be vigilant around their children’s social media use and to report an concerns to us by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40.”

Last year, a coroner’s court heard that a schoolgirl browsed social media-posts about suicide and self-harm too disturbing for police to look at for extended periods of time.

Before Molly Russell took her own life in 2017 she viewed content online linked to depression, anxiety and suicide.

The 14-year-old viewed a lot of ‘pretty dreadful’ Instagram posts which have now been handed over by parent company Facebook to lawyers investigating her death.

Since his daughter’s death, Ian Russell has been a vocal campaigner for reform of social media platforms and set up the Molly Rose Foundation in her memory.

In a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists published in January, he said: “Among the usual school friends, pop groups and celebrities followed by 14-year-olds, we found bleak depressive material, graphic self-harm content and suicide encouraging memes.

“I have no doubt that social media helped kill my daughter.”