A Child psychiatrist told an inquest that shocking videos Molly Russell saw in the weeks before she ended her life kept him up at night.
Molly Russell, 14, viewed thousands of disturbing posts in the months leading up to her death in 2017.
Dr Navin Venugopal told North London coroner’s court the self-harm content viewed by Molly before her death was “very disturbing” and “distressing”.
He said: “I had to see it over a short period of time and it was very disturbing, distressing.
“There were periods where I was not able to sleep well for a few weeks, so bearing in mind that the child saw this over a period of months I can only say that she was [affected], especially bearing in mind that she was a depressed 14-year-old. It would certainly affect her and made her feel more hopeless.”
Molly Russell from Harrow, north-west London, killed herself in November 2017 after viewing extensive amounts of content online – especially on Instagram and Pinterest – related to suicide, depression, anxiety and self-harm.
Under questioning from senior coroner Andrew Walker, the witness agreed it was important to recognise “children are not adults”, and that adult matters should not be accessible to children.
Venugopal told the inquest he saw no “positive benefit” to the material viewed by the teenager before she died.
There was a pause in the hearing on Tuesday when the Russell family’s legal team flagged that a “rather unpleasant” Instagram account had appeared on the platform using a photo of Molly as its profile image. Instagram said the account had been removed immediately for “violating our policies”
Oliver Sanders KC, representing Molly’s family, took the witness through a number of graphic video montages viewed by Molly on Instagram.
Referring to the potential effect on a person known to be anxious or depressed, Venugopal told the court: “If they are of that mindset and are seeing these sorts of things, it could have an impact.”
Concluding his examination of the expert, Sanders asked: “The material she was looking at wasn’t safe, was it?”.. “No it was not,” Venugopal replied.
On Monday, a senior executive at Instagram’s owner, Meta, apologised after acknowledging the platform had shown Molly graphic content that breached its policies at the time. Elizabeth Lagone, the head of health and wellbeing policy, said: “We are sorry that Molly saw content that violated our policies, and we don’t want that on the platform.”
Last week, a senior executive at Pinterest apologised over the graphic material shown to the teenager before her death and said the image-sharing platform was “not safe” at the time.
In a statement submitted to the coroner, Venugopal, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, said he was of the opinion that Molly had been suffering from “severe depression”.
In a further report Venugopal also wrote: “I am of the opinion that it is likely that Miss Russell was placed at risk through accessing self-harm material on social media websites and using the internet.”