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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 21 October, 2019

Irish father of suicide victim calls for more action on red-haired bullying

Helena Farrell was 15 years old when she took her own life. It is believed she was bullied because of the colour of her hair.

Image: Family Tribute Page via Facebook

‘KICK A GINGER’ Day took place last month.

The unofficial event, which probably spawned from US cartoon South Park, was blamed for a number of attacks on red-haired people across the UK.

It also brought up difficult memories for a family in Cumbria which is grieving for a lost daughter.

Helena Farrell was just 15 years old when she took her own life in January this year. Her father, Enda, is sure that the bullying she endured because of the colour of her hair contributed to her death.

“Helena’s death was not just because of it but the bullying she faced all her life certainly contributed,” the Irish man told local newspaper, the Westmoreland Gazette.

The teenager’s body was found in woodlands near Kendal on the edge of the Lake District on 5 January.

In the days that followed, friends put together musical tributes on YouTube, remembering her as a talented musician who had taken a lead role in a school musical and excelled at music exams and singing.


Despite her popularity and outgoing personality, her father believes that there were deeply traumatising effects from being targeted about her appearance.

He has called for discrimination against red-haired people to be made a hate crime. The suggestion has received support from a local MP Tim Farron who has written to Home Secretary Theresa May about what plans government has to tackle appearance-based persecution.

Farrell, who is originally from Wexford, moved his family to the UK in 2001 where he became involved in politics and was elected to council.

Currently, hate crimes include offences that are carried out against people based on race, ethnicity, disability, religion, belief, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

Police forces in the UK have discretion for adding more categories. Earlier this year, Greater Manchester Police added ‘alternative sub-cultures’ to its list following the murder of Sophie Lancaster. It is thought she was attacked and killed because she was a goth.

Cumbria Police say they treat bullying very seriously, despite it not being classified as a hate crime.


  • Samaritans 1850 60 90 90 or email

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634

  • Console 1800 201 890

  • Aware 1890 303 302

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66

Read: Two thirds of students say they know someone who died by suicide

More: Nine children in care or known to HSE died by suicide last year

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