Young woman tormented by online trolls praises Jesy Nelson for moving documentary

  • Mon,16 Sep 2019 07:02:22 AM

A young woman mercilessly tormented by online trolls has spoken candidly about the toll it took on her mental health – just as Little Mix star Jesy Nelson has revealed that she once attempted suicide as she could no longer cope with cyberbullying.

Speaking in the BBC documentary Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out, the singer told how, in 2013, following two years of ruthless trolling, she hit rock bottom, and tried to take her own life.

And, somebody who knows all too well the devastating impact online bullies can have is Lia Stubbings, of south east Buckinghamshire.

Lia is sharing her story in the hope it will help others (PA Real Life/Collect)

After appearing in a TV advert aged 16, the now 24-year-old suddenly found herself the target of cruel trolls, who would set up Facebook groups solely dedicated to mocking her, and flood the social networking site with nasty comments about her appearance.

Her self-esteem in tatters, she began suffering from depression, and even turned to self-harm.

Now, by speaking out, she has praised Jesy, with whom she strongly identifies, for her courage, and hopes to make trolls realise the shocking consequences of their nasty words.

Lia, pictured here after completing a 10km run (PA Real Life/Collect)

She said: “I haven’t quite brought myself to watch Jesy’s full documentary yet, but I saw the trailer, and it really hit me.

“She has been so brave to share her story. What she went through was on such a huge scale, and it is so admirable that she’s leading the way for other people to open up and share their own stories.

“Trolls need to realise that people’s lives aren’t fair game, and their words do hurt. They can type out a nasty message then close their computers down and go to sleep – but there is someone on the other end who has to read that.”

Growing up, Lia, who now works in digital marketing, encountered no problems with bullying. But, all that changed when, aged 16, she landed a role in a TV advert – which, in turn, seemed to attract some negative attention from other schoolchildren.

She explained: “I’d gone along to do the TV advert as an extra, but ended up being featured quite prominently. I have no idea why, but some other schoolchildren really took against it.

“No-one ever said anything to my face – save for the usual laughing and whispering when I walked into a room – but online, it was ruthless.”

Lia is set to run a half marathon for the charity Mind (PA Real Life/Collect)

With the majority of comments focusing on her appearance, Lia’s confidence was soon in shreds.

Over the course of around a year, the bullying intensified – before stopping, as suddenly as it started.

She explained: “I would see all these Facebook groups about me that people would join, or find comments about me either on my own photos, or someone else’s. Sometimes, I’d think it had stopped – then I’d come across another nasty comment.”

Lia and her sister Amber after they completed a 10km run (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued: “I wouldn’t even know how to begin to understand why trolls do these things. Perhaps they are jealous, perhaps it makes them feel big to make someone else feel small.

“But in my mind, they are cowards. To sit and be horrible to people when you’re hiding behind a computer screen is an utterly gutless thing to do.”

Though she does not believe she realised it at the time, looking back, Lia now knows that she eventually began to suffer with depression.

 

Terrified speaking up would make the bullying worse or that, because it was all happening online, nobody would be able to help her anyway, she suffered in silence.

Eventually hitting her lowest ebb, she turned to self-harm.

She said: “I needed an outlet. To me, the physical pain helped distract from the emotional.”

Lia hopes to make online bullies realise that their cruel words have a very real impact (PA Real Life/Collect)

Lia’s story draws haunting parallels with Jesy’s. After shooting to fame on the X Factor, which she won along with her band, Little Mix, in 2011, Jesy has said she became “obsessed” with reading negative comments about herself.

The 28-year-old starlet admitted she would starve herself before TV performances and video shoots, and later binge eat.

Then, in 2013, struggling to cope with the relentless online trolling – which, just like with Lia, often focused on her physical appearance – Jesy attempted suicide.

 

*5 things to do if you’re feeling suicidal right now* 1. Get safe right nowGet through the next 5 minutes – taking…

Posted by Mind on Friday, September 9, 2016

By opening up about her experiences in the BBC documentary, she says she now wants to “make a change and a difference to other people’s lives”.

In Lia’s case, although the trolls stopped after around a year, the emotional impact they left behind was long-lasting.

She said: “I don’t know why they stopped. Maybe they got bored, maybe they had an epiphany that what they were doing was actually really nasty. But though I wasn’t seeing their words anymore, the repercussions with my mental health went on and on.”

Lia and her sister Amber (PA Real Life/Collect)

“Slowly, I tried to rebuild my motivation and work hard – something I’d always done before – and eventually got to university,” she continued. “When I was there though, I also started to develop anxiety, perhaps because there had been so much change and I was away from home for the first time.

“It took me a long time to understand it, but now I look back, I can see the depression has always been there lurking, since I was 16.”

Last year, Lia began taking anti-depressants, but has since come off them as she did not like some of the side effects.

Lia is speaking out after Little Mix star Jesy Nelson opened up about her own experiences with trolling (PA Real Life/Collect)

“They did really help to put a gap between me and my emotions, though, and gave me that space to take a step back,” she said.

Now, she is having therapy, and said that talking to an outsider about all she has been through is helping.

Her ordeal has also made her incredibly passionate about mental health, and so on Sunday 13 October, she will be taking on London’s Royal Parks Half Marathon for the charity Mind.

 
 
 
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“I decided to sign up and do it, as I’d watched it as a spectator and there’s always such a great atmosphere,” she said. “I wanted to do it to raise money for charity, but wanted to pick a cause I had a connection with. Then, I saw Mind had places, and it seemed perfect.

“There will be so many emotions when I cross that finish line.”

Feeling stronger every day, Lia is now determined to help others, and hopes that by sharing her story, just like Jesy did, she will show others out there struggling with bullying that they are not alone.

She concluded: “My depression and anxiety still have their moments, but now, I feel I can survive anything – and I’m only getting stronger.

“I want to follow in Jesy’s footsteps and share my own story to firstly show trolls the very real impact behind their words.

“But I also want to show others out there struggling like I did that help is possible, and that they aren’t alone. If I can help just one person, I’ll be happy.”

Lia in her Mind running vest (PA Real Life/Collect)

Karen Bolton, Head of Community and Events Fundraising at Mind said: “We’d like to say a big thank you to Lia for all of the hard work she’s put into her training and fundraising – especially after everything that she’s been through.

“The money she’s raising through taking part in the Royal Parks Half will help us to continue to make sure that no one has to face a mental health problem alone.”

Lia will be running the Royal Parks Half marathon for Mind, the mental health charity on Sunday 13th October. Money raised will help Mind to provide information and advice to the one in four of us who will experience a mental health problem each year. If you’ve been inspired by her story you can sign up to run for Team Mind at www.mind.org.uk/run-for-mind and sponsor Lia here

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