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Molly Russell’s father made MBE for services to child safety online | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


Molly Russell’s father said the 14-year-old would have been “very proud” of her legacy of suicide prevention as he was made an MBE in the New Year Honours list.

Ian Russell, 60, has been recognised for services to child safety online after he set up the Molly Rose Foundation suicide prevention charity in her memory and contributed to the establishment of the Online Safety Bill.

Last September, a coroner ruled schoolgirl Molly, from Harrow, north-west London, died from “an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content” in November 2017.

Mr Russell told the PA news agency: “I’m here for the work that not just me but lots of people have done in setting up the Molly Rose Foundation, the charity that we formed after my youngest daughter ended her life in November of 2017, in the hope of preventing such tragedies in the future.”

Molly Russell

Molly Russell took her own life in November 2017 after she had been viewing material on social media linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide

On what Molly would have made of his MBE, he said: “Molly was quite content to get on stage and take part in school plays but she was a quiet person, she didn’t like the limelight, so I think she would have found this a bit strange.

“But because she was such a caring person, I think she would have been tremendously proud of being able to help people who may be struggling with their mental health and may be beginning to have thoughts about suicide.

“If she thought she could help those people live long and stay strong, she’d be very proud indeed.”

He said his daughter was “very special” and “emotionally intelligent”, adding: “She had a cheeky sense of humour and above all she was one of the most caring people I’ve ever known even though she died at the age of 14.”

Last month, the Molly Rose Foundation released a report in the week that would have marked her 21st birthday, which said social media platforms suffer from significant, fundamental system failings in handling self-harm and suicide content.

It said it found harmful content at scale and prevalent on Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest – in response to which the firms outlined what they are doing to keep youngsters safe online.

Mr Russell said the foundation has also been sending out help cards with contact details for support services to schools and other organisations involved with children.

It also provides suicide prevention training in schools and is “trying to set up a network of support centres across the high streets of the UK”.

He added: “Without those conversations, there’s a much greater danger that people will end up ending their own lives, so we’re trying to find ways to start difficult conversations and we’re trying to continue working with the regulators in terms of the Online Safety Act which has past through Parliament and is now law.

“There’s a period of transition where Ofcom as regulator is working out how it’s actually going to implement the powers it has, that have been given by the Act, and we’re trying to work with them, as are many people, to make sure that the Act does as promised makes the UK the safest place in the world to be online.

“It’s really important that we don’t shy away from talking about online safety, we don’t shy away from talking about suicide and we don’t shy away from talking about mental health, having conversations is the most important thing and we can all do that on an individual level.

“It’s also really important that governments regulate to make sure that the tech platforms show more corporate/social responsibility than perhaps they have in the past because the tech platforms, at the end of the day, are the places where improved safety features have to be implemented to keep people safe online, for example, they shouldn’t be algorithmically recommending harmful content, particularly to young people, that has to change.

“And it’s important for governments around the world to join the list of nations that have introduced regulation to make the online world safer.”

Molly Russell inquestMolly Russell inquest

Ian Russell, the father of Molly Russell, said that he was in a ‘state of disbelief’ when he learned he would be receiving an honour (Joshua Bratt/PA)

When he discovered he was receiving an honour, Mr Russell said he experienced “almost a state of disbelief, quickly followed by a smile that spread across my face”.

He added: “Although honours are individual things, this was for a team of people, this was for hundreds of people in fact that have been involved in making the online world safer and helping to prevent young suicide, and that by accepting it and continuing to raise awareness, it would be a good thing to do and hopefully in the future, there would be far fewer cases like Molly’s.”

Alice Hendy, founder of R;pple suicide prevention charity, has also been appointed MBE for services to online safety.

Ms Hendy, from Fareham, Hampshire, lost her sibling, Josh, 21, to suicide in November 2020 after he had been searching for techniques to take his own life through harmful internet searches.

She subsequently launched R;pple – an online interceptive tool designed to ensure that more help and support is provided to people who are conducting searches relating to self-harm or suicide.

Mr Russell said it’s “fantastic news that all that Alice has achieved has been recognised”.

“Alice Hendy is one of the most extraordinary people that I’ve met in this space,” he said.

“Her bravery and her courage after losing her brother Josh is extraordinary and what she’s achieved with the R;pple suicide prevention tool she’s developed is extraordinary, I just can’t quite understand why it hasn’t been adopted more quickly and more widely by platforms and by people.”

Ms Hendy told the PA news agency: “Receiving this MBE is a huge honour.

“When I first started R;pple, the intention was never to achieve any recognition or gain back slaps in any way, it was a way for me to remember my brother, to continue his legacy and ultimately to stop other people from feeling so low that they believe that taking their own life is their best option.

“The creation of R;pple has helped a lot of people and it’s all in the name of my brother.

“So, very humbled, very overwhelmed really to receive the letter through my letterbox in between all of my bills and my mortgage and so on. And, yeah, looking forward to raising a glass to Josh as a result.”

For mental health support, call the Samaritans on 116 123, email them at [email protected] or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

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