My selfie-addiction drove me to slash my arms and legs – after trolls said I was so ugly I should get run over and die – The Sun

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“YOU'RE ugly. You’re a waste of space. Kill yourself. I hope you get hit by a car.”

Those were the vicious words flung at 13-year-old Hannah Adams. Her crime? Posting a selfie on Instagram in the vain hope she’d get some likes.

The teen was mercilessly bullied both at school and online, with everything from her red hair to her body and the way she applied her make-up torn apart.

Hannah began to feel trapped, with every post she made on social media attracting a ream of comments from trolls  – so even at home there was no escape from the abuse.

She began self-harming and felt suicidal, although moving schools eventually changed her life.

Now 17, Hannah appears in this week's BBC documentary Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out, in which the Little Mix star reveals she attempted suicide when online trolling became too much for her to bear.

Hannah has spoken to The Sun Online to mark the year anniversary of You’re Not Alone, our suicide prevention campaign.

Suicides among young girls have risen by a shocking 83% over the last six years, with girls as young as 10 taking their own lives.

This week we are highlighting the intense pressure modern life is putting on kids, with social media meaning there is now no respite for those who are targeted by online bullies – like Hannah.

The teen now works with The Diana Award to help school children who are victims of bullying, and here she warns that the dark side of social media must be taken more seriously.

‘I begged mum to dye my hair’

Hannah was always a happy child, she loved theatre and dancing, had lots of friends and describes herself as “bubbly”.

But things changed when she moved to Cardiff with her family aged seven – she began to get bullied.

“It started on my first day. I wasn’t the quiet new girl and they didn’t like that or the colour of my hair,” she explains.

“They made fun of me because I was ginger, and called me ugly. No one would play with me.
“I hated it. I would beg my mum to dye my hair and would fake being ill so I didn’t have to go.”

Desperate to fit in, when she was 10 Hannah begged her mum to let her open social media accounts.

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all say users must be 13 or over, but many of the kids at Hannah’s school already used them.

Her mum banned her, saying she was too young.

“I'd try and make sneaky Twitter accounts, because everybody else had social media and would talk about it in school,” she recalls.

“I felt pressure to have it to fit in. They would speak about Facebook and all the likes they were getting and I felt like I was missing out on a big part of what was going on.”

‘They made me hate myself’

None of this worked through, with Hannah’s mum also talking to teachers to try to solve the issue.

Starting secondary school, which should have been an exciting time for the student, turned into a nightmare.

“They’d kick me and sometimes I’d get bruises,” Hannah says.

“People would throw food at me, and play a game called ‘Hannah’s germs’ where if they came close to me they’d be ‘infected’.

“I hated myself. I felt like a nuisance and a problem. I thought there must be something really wrong with me if no one wanted to be my friend.”

Hannah didn’t want her mum to be upset, so she kept a lot of what was happening to herself.

Then, at 13, Hannah was finally allowed to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She was sure this would be the key to fitting in at school – but things were actually about to get much worse.

YOU'RE NOT ALONE

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
  • Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
  • Movember, www.uk.movember.com

'Strangers started trolling me to'

“The cyberbullying began a few weeks after I set them up. I didn’t know how to put your profile on private at that time, or how to block people” she says.

“They’d say I was ugly, and a waste of space. They’d speak about my appearance – if I posted a selfie they’d comment.

“Some boys at school made a group chat on Instagram, they were calling me ugly, and then they started with Instagram and Facebook comments. It got really out of hand.

“It wasn’t just people from my school – soon it was just random people on the internet.”

As things escalated Hannah deactivated her accounts in the hope things would calm down.

But it didn’t work – not least because she missed the social media hit.

“It was so addictive,” she says. “I felt like I was missing out not being on there, and it was a good way to stay in touch with friends I knew from outside school.

“I was so used to people commenting things like ‘starve yourself more, cut yourself more.’

“The comments were horrific. My body was full of anxiety. I didn’t know what to do.”

Hannah’s accounts were hooked up to her mum’s email address, and when she discovered what was going on she once again tried to speak to the school – but nothing seemed to help.

‘The bully can follow you home – there’s no escape’

Alex Holmes is the deputy CEO of The Diana Award, which run the UK's largest anti-bullying and online safety schools initiative. He explains why social media is driving mental health problems among young people, and what parents can do to help

"It's easy for young people to forget the power of their words on social media, as there's no face to face eye contact or interaction. It can result in cyberbullying.

“These days young people are connected to technology 24/7 and with this comes immense advantages, such as being able to form deeper relationships and bonds with friends, as well as meaning it can feel harder to switch off, unplug and escape any abuse that takes place online.

“The bullying can follow you home, into your bedroom and it's harder to escape.

“Warning signs parents should look for include a change in behaviour, lack of sleep, increased or decreased use of social media, isolation from friends, a drop in school grades, weight gain or decrease.

“Parents should keep an eye out for any change of behaviour, trust their instincts and remember they can seek support or advice from school or their GP.

“The government says that schools should deal with cyberbullying between their pupils – that's official advice – so approach teachers and work with the school if needed.

“Talk to your child about what is the best and worst thing about social media, have those conversations and make sure they know they can come to you if they ever have a problem or concern.”

‘I got panic attacks – but I was addicted’

It wasn’t just the trolling which caused Hannah stress either, she struggled to cope with the pressure that came from social media.

“People would say how they’d got 100 likes on their profile picture, and I’d get ten, and be really upset by it,” she says.

“I’d cry if I felt ugly in the photos, and would take hundreds of tries to get one I liked.

“I’d put loads of filters on and loads of make-up on just to try to get 100 likes – which I wouldn't get.

“Then the trolls would call me a ‘try hard’ and I’d get all these notifications.

“I’d be having panic attacks in the night, but it was so addictive I’d have to have my phone on me – I couldn’t leave it.

“It’s a horrible pressure to have, on top of the normal pressures of growing up.”

WHERE TO GET HELP

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
  • Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
  • YoungMinds, www.youngminds.org.uk, 0808 802 5544

No escape

By this point Hannah was self-harming and struggling with suicidal thoughts.

“I was cutting my arms and legs. I had to go to the hospital one time for it because of how deep the cut was,” she admits.

“I couldn’t say if that was intentional or not – I just felt angry and upset. I thought there was no point.

“I felt the whole world was against me. My only reason [to keep going] was my family.

“Social media played a big part in how I felt. I had no escape. I couldn’t just come home and get away from it and have a break – it was always there, any time of day.

“Everyday I’d go on social media, and every day I’d be getting horrible comments. I learned how to block people, but people would make new accounts and say things like ‘you should get hit by a car’.”

Eventually, when she was 13, the bullying became so bad Hannah was taken out of school.

She was taught at home for three months before starting at a new school, which proved the fresh start she needed.

She was no longer targeted and Hannah is now an Anti-Bully Ambassador for charity The Diana Award.

Speaking to Little Mix star Jesy for her new documentary made Hannah realise just how prolific online bullying is.

The key signs your child is at risk of suicide

Mental health disorders don't just affect adults, kids are at risk too.

Children as young as two are even said to be suffering, with the NHS previously stating one in eight kids has a mental illness.

Mental health problems can lead to suicidal thoughts, so here are the key signs to watch out for:

  1. Bad mood that won't go away
  2. Tearful or emotional outbursts
  3. Lack of interest in fun things they used to love
  4. Feeling tired all the time
  5. Eating less or binge eating
  6. Trouble sleeping
  7. Lack of concentration
  8. Low self-esteem

She believes kids should learn safe social media practice at school, including how to block and report people.

“It was interesting to see how social media can affect everyone when I spoke to Jesy- you wouldn’t think it would affect celebrities,” Hannah says.

“It was shocking and upsetting to realise anyone could be a target – it doesn’t matter who you are.

“Now, I have a different experience of social media. I can see the positives now I’m surrounded by good people – but it definitely has its dark sides.”

Watch Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out on Thursday 12 September, BBC1, 9pm.

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