Group backs tougher stance on social media firms over suicide images

Health leaders and campaigners behind Zero Suicide Ambition want crackdown on harmful content

Group backs tougher stance on social media firms over suicide images
30 January 2019


Health leaders and campaigners have backed calls for social media companies to do more to block content promoting suicide and self-harm.

They are part of a group that has developed a “zero suicide ambition” for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The group includes representatives from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridgeshire, Peterborough & South Lincolnshire Mind, Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, and the Zero Suicide Alliance.

Tracy Dowling, Chief Executive of CPFT, which delivers mental health services in the area, said: “Social media firms need to work harder to prevent material which promotes suicide and self-harm from appearing on their platforms. Our clinicians who work with vulnerable people, especially young people, have been concerned about the kind of content which can easily be found online for several years. But it has now got so great that something needs to be done.”

The issue has been raised following the death of Molly Russell. Her father has said the 14-year-old took her own life in 2017 after viewing disturbing content online. The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said social media firms could be banned if they fail to remove harmful material.

Steve Mallen, from Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, who co-founded the Zero Suicide Alliance, a national collaborative of around 100 NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Public Health directorates, after losing his son Edward to suicide in 2015, said: “Social media needs to realise that it has a social responsibility.

“Whilst there is much about social media that is positive in mental health, there is a far darker side which is dangerous and immoral. Successful businesses and enterprises take their community and wellbeing activities very seriously and it is high time that the major social media companies did the same.”

Kathy Hartley, consultant in public health and chair of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough partnership board to prevent suicide, said: “If social media companies were to take greater care to ensure that damaging content about suicide and self-harm was removed from their platforms, lives would be safeguarded. It is about time they took this responsibility seriously.”

The organisations behind the “zero suicide ambition” want to end taboos about suicide, to encourage people to talk about the issue, and to intervene if they feel a loved one or a friend is at risk.

Nationally, only 30 per cent of those who complete suicide are seen by mental health services in the year before their death. The group want suicide to be something all of society is aware of and get involved in preventing.

They are encouraging people from across the area to sign CPSL Mind’s award-winning STOP Suicide pledge - which can be found here stopsuicidepledge.org/pledge/ - and take the free online training provided by the Zero Suicide Alliance on its website here.

Pictured above: CPFT Chief Executive with Steve Mallen at the launch of the Zero Suicide Alliance at the House of Commons in November 2017


For more information please contact:

Andy Burrows
Media Manager
E andy.burrows@cpft.nhs.uk
T 01223 219467

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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