A grieving mother fights to shut down “bad” suicide websites after her daughter takes her own life in her bedroom.
Shawn Shatto, 25, poisoned herself last year and blogged her final moments in a “pro-choice” forum full of users encouraging her to die.
Mother Jackie, from Pennsylvania, USA, says she was the victim of web pages where people share suicide methods and tips on how to avoid ringing the bell – instead of asking for help.
While her mother worked in another room, Shawn swallowed a poisonous substance fueled by the other forum users who, nauseatingly, wished her “safe travels.”
Her last message was, “I just took it. I’m fucking terrified.”
Jackie found Shawn “blue and cold” on her bedroom floor and initially suspected a heart attack or aneurysm. But when she saw the messages on her phone, she realized that her daughter had died by her own hand.
The ‘beautiful’ Amazon worker was bullied at school and suffered from anxiety for years, with her mental health deteriorating in April 2019.
It was around this time that Shawn joined the suicide forum. It reportedly doesn’t require a dark web or special software to visit.
She was dead just a few weeks later.
Jackie says the website, and others like this one, is “predatory” and must be shut down to save lives, especially as millions of people struggle with their mental well-being during the shutdown.
“Shawn spoke to them live,” Jackie told The Sun.
“She said, ‘I feel bad because my mom is just down the hall.’ I was here all the time, just sitting here, working.
“Someone said their only concern was that if I heard something, I might call for help and it might not work. That was their only concern.
“Nobody said, ‘maybe you should talk to your mom before doing this’.”
The forum Shawn used describes itself as a “pro-choice” community that “does not encourage, promote, recommend, suggest, or assist suicide in any way or form.”
It says it supports the “right of members to end their lives”, saying “there is information on this site that could kill you if used”.
It has 15,000 members and nearly 50,000 online threads.
There are a number of similar suicide forums that offer users tips on how to end their lives, where to buy toxins, and “success rates” for various methods.
Some sick users have encouraged others to film their suicide attempts, and accounts verified as dead are shown with a line through their usernames.
In April of this year, a 23-year-old from Leeds died after accessing the same forum as Shawn, The Sun reports.
Jackie says children are especially at risk because of the sites, claiming that some users ask if they should “tell my parents,” just to sternly tell them not to.
“They tell you what to say to make your parents think you’re okay,” she said, adding that she believes Shawn would still be alive if the forum hadn’t been there.
In the UK, in the Online Harms Bill, the Government calls for an independent regulator to hold tech giants accountable for disregarding the safety of children on their platforms, and could result in hefty fines for harmful material.
But Jackie wants the forum and similar forums to be taken off the Internet altogether.
“I’ll never be the same after this, but I have to fight for Shawn, my other kids and every kid out there,” she said.
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour Helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritan section in person, or visit the Samaritan website.