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Local teen died by suicide after recording himself playing Russian Roulette on Snapchat

Ian dies of suicide JENNIFER MITCHELL.png
Posted at 11:21 AM, Nov 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-14 19:12:57-05

Teen suicides are on the rise, and recent statistics are alarming. According to Pew Research, since 2008, child suicide rates have increased by up to 150%. And the CDC's 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 19% of high school students considered attempting suicide, 16% made a suicide plan and 10% attempted suicide.

A local mom opened up about how her son died by suicide after learning a dangerous game online.

"He was so amazing. I can remember his hugs," Jennifer Mitchell said.

Her son Ian went to East Lake High School.

"He was a good kid. You know, he was very loving," she continued. "He was very kind and extremely funny. And adventurous too."

Three years ago, Ian died by suicide, but Jennifer said she had no idea he had mental health issues because, on the surface, things looked good.

"He had good grades. He was in the honors classes," she said. "He wasn't getting suspended or having problems at school or anything. He had friends, so he was socializing. And for the most part, everything seemed normal."

But Ian had a secret life online with multiple social media accounts, where he was watching dangerous games and learning how to play "Russian Roulette."

"And next thing you know, their content is different than yours. And the stuff that they're seeing isn't okay. You know, it's stuff that you would never let your child look at," Jennifer said.

By the time Jennifer got into Ian's social media accounts and found the videos he uploaded of playing Russian Roulette with a revolver, it was too late.

Ian died by suicide just before his junior year.

"He had died by a gunshot to the head," Jennifer said.

Sadly, according to Pew Research, suicides have long accounted for the majority of gun deaths.

In 2020, more than half of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides. That's compared to 43% that were murders.

The CDC also reported that more Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2020 than in any other year on record.

Jennifer is still grieving the loss of her only child, and there's not a day that goes by she doesn't think about him.

''He would just give me that hug from behind and kiss me on my cheek and say 'I love you,'" she said with tears in her eyes. "That's what I miss."

Matt Bergman, an attorney, recently started the Social Media Victims Law Center.

"One of the problems is that the products are not only designed to be addictive, they're designed to evade parental authority," he said.

In wrongful death lawsuits, Bergman has accused social media companies of directing Ian and other kids to specific material based on algorithms so they become addicted.

"In the case of young girls, it's often content that promotes anorexia or body-hating images," Bergman said. "With young boys, it's often dangerous activities such as Russian Roulette. And that's what happened here. It didn't have to happen, and it wasn't an accident."

Bergman also said kids' mental well-being would continue to dissipate until these social media companies are held accountable.

"We believe if one child is spared the fate that Ian had as a result of this work, then it will have been worthwhile. And I will have been proud to have been part of it," Bergman added.

Bergman represents Jennifer in a wrongful death lawsuit against Meta Platforms Inc., which owns Facebook, Instagram and Snap Inc., which operates Snapchat.

But no settlement can bring back a child, so Jennifer has this warning for other parents.

''I'm guilty of being one of these people that said, 'Oh, those things don't happen in our family,'" she said. "That was a mistake to say because those things can happen in anybody's family."

ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan reached out to META about Jennifer Mitchell's lawsuit filed against the company.

"We won't be able to comment directly given its active litigation," said Liza Crenshaw with Instagram Communications via email.

Snap Inc., which owns Snapchat, has still not responded to Ryan's emails regarding Mitchell's lawsuit.

In honor of Ian, Jennifer started Ian's Way, a non-profit group to prevent teen suicide that offers free group counseling and mental health/suicide awareness.

For more information, click here.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the 24/7 national suicide prevention hotline at (800)-273-8255 or just dial 988.

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