‘Failure to act’ on suicide website linked to 50 UK deaths

by | Oct 24, 2023 | Health

By Angus Crawford & Tony SmithBBC NewsBritish authorities failed to act on multiple official warnings about a website promoting suicide that has been connected to at least 50 UK deaths, the BBC has found. The online forum, which we are not naming, is easily accessible to anyone on the open web, including children. Our investigation has identified multiple warnings to government by coroners and a number of police investigations, but the forum still remains active. Families of the dead, the youngest just 17, say the failure to act led to more avoidable deaths. They are demanding an inquiry. They’re speaking out, despite the risks others may find the forum, because they want action now to shut it down and prevent deaths in the future.The forum’s founders remain elusive, but during our investigation we managed to track one of them down to his home in the US.The government was first warned by a coroner about the forum in December 2019. Callie Lewis had been assessed as being autistic at a young age and struggled with chronic depression and suicidal thoughts. Callie spent just over a month as a forum member. She researched a new suicide method and bought materials which she later used to end her life.”Without those forums, I think my daughter would have struggled to find the information that she was looking for about how to die,” Callie’s mother Sarah told the BBC at the time.If you’ve been affected by the issues in this story, help and support is available via the BBC Action LineThe inquest into Callie’s death highlighted the role the forum had played.After an inquest, coroners have a duty to ask public bodies, companies and individuals to explain what steps they plan to take to prevent a similar death taking place in the future.This is called a Prevention of Future Death report. However, it is advisory only, and doesn’t lay down what action should be taken.The senior coroner in charge in Central and SE Kent, Patricia Harding, wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, raising concerns.”Callie was enabled by the advice provided through the forum to frustrate a mental health assessment and thereafter take her life,” Ms Harding wrote.”In my opinion, action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you have the power to take such action.”50 UK deathsWe have discovered that at least six coroners have written to government departments demanding action to shut the forum down. Collating inquest reports, press articles and posts on the forum itself, we have identified at least 50 UK victims.We have learned that at least five police forces are aware of the forum, and have investigated deaths linked to it, but have been unable to take action. The forum is hosted abroad and is well known among those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. It has more than 40,000 members worldwide. More than two million messages have been posted, many of them horrifyingly graphic. Only last month, a post on the forum showed an image of a package that arrived by courier, apparently poison, ordered by a child in another country. “It arrived while I was at school,” they wrote. “I called my mum and told her not to open it. I’m going to use it today.”Another user posted a photograph of his hotel bedroom, with equipment set up ready for a suicide attempt.Other forum members offer encouragement to these kinds of posts. “Good luck. I hope it works out well and you go peacefully,” writes one user. “Godspeed,” says another.The problem for the authorities is that the website is hosted anonymously and no-one knows who is currently running it.But the BBC did manage to track down one of those who created it.This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Lamarcus Small helped set up the forum after a similar pro-suicide thread was banned from the social media forum and discussion site Reddit. Small lives in the suburbs of Huntsville, a city in the US state of Alabama. Something of a recluse, he rarely comes out of his house. We waited three days to speak to him. Small has claimed in the past to no longer be involved in the forum. When confronted, he refused to answer any of our questions.Families hold Small responsible for hundreds of deaths worldwide.23-year-old Joe Nihill from Leeds found the forum in April 2020. Joe spent a month online, exchanging messages from other forum users, being coached on the most effective way to die.Joe even left a note to his family, spelling out how dangerous the forum had been for him. “Please do your best to close that website for anyone else,” he wrote.”The government are failing people. The police are failing people” says Joe’s sister-in-law Melanie.”It’s a joke,” interjects Joe’s mother Catherine. “The government knew about this five years ago. Why are we still here? Are we supposed to just leave this and let them continue?”Joe’s death prompted another coroner’s letter. Kevin McLoughlin, Senior Coroner for West Yorkshire (East) wrote to the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC).The forum, he said, “may be actively promoting a particular method of committing suicide and hence breaking the criminal law by assisting suicide. Consideration should be given to blocking its availability in the UK so as to negate this risk”.The families of those who’ve died want to know why more hasn’t been done.Imogen Nunn was a deaf mental health campaigner who had hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok. But despite her positive messages on social media, “Deaf Immy” as she was …

Article Attribution | Read More at Article Source

Share This