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Protecting our analysts’ Mental Health under extraordinary circumstances

On World Mental Health Day 2020, we look at the extraordinary work of our dedicated team of analysts and how working to tackle child sexual abuse online can impact their mental health.

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While the entire world was living the consequences of the global pandemic, our analysts tirelessly worked to make sure children were kept safe. During the coronavirus lockdown, there was a 50% increase in reports of child sexual abuse imagery from members of the public to our team of analysts. Between 23 March and 9 July 2020, we received 44,809 reports from members of the public. Each report is personally assessed by one of our expert analysts and could contain one or hundreds of images and videos.

In May the IWF, with the help of our industry partners, announced that together, at least 8.8 million attempts by UK internet users to access videos and images of children suffering sexual abuse had been successfully blocked and filtered during a one-month period.

One of our analysts, Lucy, talked to BBC File on 4 about her work and the impact the pandemic is having on her everyday working life.
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“We see hundreds and hundreds of images every week.

“Sometimes if there is sound attached to these videos we have heard parents calling their children down for dinner, or calling them down to have a word with them, and that is so upsetting because criminal activity is going on in their bedrooms and the parents are just outside. It is heart-breaking.”

She added: “I get told by people that they couldn’t do the job that I do, and they wonder why I’m not crying into my dinner every night. We all want to eradicate this criminal content from the internet. We all understand that there is a real child in every image, and that every image is a crime scene.

“So we want to disrupt and eradicate this content and stop those offenders accessing it and to stop those children being revictimised.

“I kind of treat the airlock and the many doors I need to exit as a way of physically leaving those images behind. I can’t have them coming home with me.

“So now I have my 30-minute journey home. This allows me some time to get my resilience to kick in, get rid of the day, so I can walk through my front door and be mother and wife to my family. This normally involves choosing some music on my playlist and playing it very very loud.”

Listen to more of our analysts’ stories in our 6-part podcast series: Pixels From A Crime Scene

Our analysts are incredibly resilient and compassionate individuals doing an extraordinary job. A much larger team is there to support them along the way and to make sure their welfare needs are met, so they can continue doing this unique task. 

Amongst other measures to protect their mental health, all new analysts go through a specially developed induction training programme to help them mentally process and cope with exposure to disturbing images. 

All our staff work shorter days to ensure their personal lives don’t suffer, and working overtime is not allowed. The analysts also take regular timetabled breaks, more so when they’re doing certain, more mentally challenging, tasks. 

Each month they have individual mandatory counselling sessions and all employees who see criminal imagery have a full psychological assessment every year. Due to Coronavirus and the extra burden this might be putting on their mental wellbeing, all analysts are being offered additional access to counselling sessions. 

IWF leads the fight against child sexual abuse imagery worldwide, thanks in part to our tech tools, but the dedication and expertise of our analysts is what really sets us apart. 

Join us on World Mental Health Day 2020 in thanking our real-life superheroes for their extraordinary contribution to child protection and internet safety worldwide. 

Find out more about World Mental Health Day 2020 at: wmhd2020.com

Ways in which you can help us continue our work:

  • Do report images and videos of child sexual abuse to the IWF to be removed. Reports to the IWF are anonymous.
  • Don’t report other harmful content – you can find details of other agencies to report to on our website.
  • Do report to the police if you are concerned about a child’s welfare or safety.
  • Share this article on social media using the #wmhd2020 hashtag.
  • Could you fundraise for us? If you have a fundraising idea, please get in touch with us at fundraising@iwf.org.uk.
  • Donations help us continue our vital work supporting victims of child sexual abuse.
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