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Joint online safety statement issued after Ronan blackmail tragedy

Members of the Southern Area Community Response Planning group today issued a joint statement to raise awareness about improving online safety and to highlight support services that are available if potential or harmful situations develop.

The statement comes after the recent tragedy where 17-year-old Ronan Hughes took his own life after being blackmailed when tricked into posting images.

Advice has been given on who to turn to if anyone does find themselves in similar situations as health and charity professionals work to try to prevent a similar tragedy.

The internet can be used to learn, explore and connect with each other but parents and young people need to be aware of the risks involved in doing so, especially when using social media.

The Southern Area Community Response Planning group advises:

  • Don’t accept friend requests with someone you don’t know – everyone online may not be who they say they are;
  • Don’t share personal information or images online or by text with people you don’t know in the real world;
  • Set your privacy settings on all devices so that only people you know can view your account;
  • Don’t post anything online that you are not happy to be shared with your parents. Your online reputation matters!
  • Tell someone you trust if anyone has made you feel uncomfortable or worse online -. You can ring the Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. For help and advice, ring Childline on 0800 1111 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.

Everyone makes choices at different times in their lives that they may reconsider given the benefit of hindsight – if you feel you have made poor online choices don’t panic, please speak to someone you trust about this.

If you are concerned about images or messages that have been posted online, you can contact ChildLine free on 0800 1111 or chat online with a ChildLine counsellor for support. ChildLine can make a report to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) for you which may lead to the image being removed.

Partners involved in the Community Response Planning group include Public Health Agency, Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Education Authority, PSNI, all local councils and some relevant community and voluntary sector groups. The group monitors reported suicides in the area and works to ensure that services work together to meet the needs of the local community.

Bryce McMurray, Assistant Director of Mental Health Services for the Southern Trust said: “Following a tragedy, individuals and communities can often feel at a loss. It is important that all agencies involved in supporting the community work together to ensure that people can access the support they need.

“If you are concerned about your own emotional health and wellbeing speak to someone close to you or contact your GP and discuss how you are feeling. Your GP may refer you to other supports within your local community.”

Gerry Bleakney, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement (Southern) at the Public Health Agency, said: “There are many sources of support within your local community. The Public Health Agency has developed a leaflet of useful contacts for Emotional Health and Wellbeing. There is also a range of mental health and emotional wellbeing training and support programmes offered free throughout the Southern Trust area. The Minding Your Head website is a good point of reference for people wishing to protect their mental health and emotional wellbeing.”

A directory of services to help improve mental health and emotional wellbeing in the Southern area is available here http://bit.ly/1BiALz9

For further information on the full range of training or to request copies of the useful contacts, please contact Nuala Quinn or Deirdre McParland on 028 37412882/ 028 37412884.

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, contact Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 or Textphone 18001 0808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary.

The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at www.lifelinehelpline.info   More information on looking after your mental health and the support which is available across Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info

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