Third suicide in weeks linked to cyberbullying

Ciara Pugsley
Ciara Pugsley

Erin Gallagher’s death is the third high-profile apparent suicide linked to cyberbullying in a matter of weeks.

The 13-year-old Donegal girl was found on Saturday after telling friends on a controversial website that she was considering killing herself after being subjected to a bullying campaign.

The full details of the teenager’s death have yet to be confirmed.

However, the incident is strikingly similar to other tragedies which hit the headlines in recent weeks.

At the end of last month 15-year-old Ciara Pugsley, from Leitrim, lost her life after being bullied by teens online.

The pupil at St Clare’s Comprehensive in Manor-hamilton was abused by individuals on the ask.fm social media website, which was set up to allow people to ask any user questions they wanted answered.

Among the messages Ciara received were that she was depressed to attract attention, that she was fat, and that she had no respect for herself.

The popular schoolgirl’s classmates only became aware of what happened after the 15-year-old went missing last month.

She was found in a wooded area near her home, and did not leave a note.

Gardaí have confirmed they are investigating the online messages and the apparent cyberbullying connection to her death.

Her father Jonathan has since gone public to urge other teens who may have been going through the same difficulties as his daughter not to take their own lives. “Just don’t do it. Your family and your friends need you,” he said.

On the other side of the world, another 15-year-old lost her life after what is again suspected to have been a campaign of online abuse against her.

On Sept 7 Amanda Todd, from Vancouver in Canada, posted a video to YouTube where she used flash cards to explain the torment she had suffered.

This included blackmail involving pictures she was tricked into posing for as a 12-year-old, bullying, and assault, all of which were traced back to cyberbullying.

On Oct 10 police rushed to her home where they found her dead.

Her final YouTube video — titled ‘My Story: struggling, bullying, suicide and self-harm’ — has been seen by over 1.6m people worldwide. Her family want it to be used in schools as a warning of the dangers of cyberbullying.

Calls for website to be banned after teenager’s death

Heartbroken friends of a 13-year-old who was found dead on Saturday after allegedly being subjected to cyber-bullying have called for the website involved to be banned.

Erin Gallagher was found at the weekend after telling online friends she was going to take her life due to the abuse she was suffering on ask.fm.

The website hit the headlines last month after the death of 15-year-old Leitrim girl Ciara Pugsley led to a Garda probe over messages she received from other members of the site. While ask.fm was set up for innocent purposes, to allow people to ask any member questions and seek advice on various topics, the latest tragedy has led to calls for it to be banned.

Writing on a Facebook tribute page to honour Erin, Peter Sweeney wrote: “Erin is a 2nd year student who went to a local school here in Ballybofey who tragically due to bullying ended her own life. An absolute waste of a young life who had so much ahead of her. She was on a website called askfm where a lot of the bullying took place, and I call for it to be banned. Rest in peace Erin.”

Another user, Laura O Sullivan, responded: “My own sister had the same trouble with that askfm, had a suicide letter written also, my mum found it thank god.”

Both Ciara and Erin had suffered online abusive messages from other ask.fm members, an issue which the website’s developers never intended to see happen.

Tributes pour in for teens as calls grow to shut controversial site

A Facebook tribute page honouring Erin Gallagher has already attracted over 2,000 well-wishers, with calls to hold charity runs in her name and the banning of a website linked to the 13-year-old’s death.

The Facebook page was set up by friends and family of the tragic teenager after she was found dead on Saturday.

Erin was allegedly being bullied on the internet by other youths, which may have contributed to what happened.

Fran Anderson wrote on the Facebook page, “beautiful young girl, hope her bullies are wracked with guilt today”, while Anne Martina Moore added Erin was “just a child, [it’s] so sad”.

Martina Callaghan struck the same note as many other contributors, saying: “You wee pet, our thoughts and prayers are with your family at this sad time.”

The remark was echoed by Kelvin Lynch, who said: “RIP Erin, you didn’t do anything to deserve this, sleep tight.”

While some called for the ask.fm website to be banned in light of alleged links with the 13-year-old’s death, other site visitors have suggested organising a charity 5km run.

For one message-poster, what happened was impossible to forget: “Erin, for as long as this planet turns you’ll never be forgotten. We all know you’re lookin down on us from up there. GBNF (Gone But Not Forgotten).”

Helplines:

* Childline: 1800 666656, or text “list” to 50101

* Parentline: 1890 927277

* Teen Ireland: 1800 833634

* Console 24/7 helpline: 1800 201890

* 3Ts 24/7 suicide prevention helpline: 1800 247100, or text “help” to 51444

* HSE suicide prevention helpline: 1800 742745

Cyberbullying advice websites:

* Expert advice at webwise.ie

* Academic-based research is available at cybertraining-project.org

* Internet Safety for Schools at isfsi.ie

* Further information: Visit irishexaminer.com to access Claire O’Sullivan’s two-day special investigation into the dangers of cyberbullying for teenagers, published earlier this month.

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