This grandmother is an unlikely champion for bullied teens

Sandy looking at a laptop screen

"It's frightening. It's a hell of a lot of responsibility," says Sandy.

For a number of vulnerable young people, this grandmother from Devon has become the person they turn to in some of their darkest moments.

Sandy runs the Izzy Dix anti-bullying online support group, based in the Torbay area and set up in memory of the 14-year-old who took her life in 2013.

Through that group Sandy has spoken to teenagers who say they are being bullied so badly they want to die.

"I'm just one person and I'm no-one and I can't give them the help they need," Sandy, who didn't want to use her surname, tells Newsbeat.

"I think these kids are being sold desperately short of what they need. They don't trust adults. They don't trust anyone in authority."

Listen to the Newsbeat podcast, The Story of Izzy Dix.

BBC Advice has more help and information if you're affected by bullying.

There are no official statistics on the number of people who bully, or who are bullied in the UK.

Different studies suggest different figures. The latest data from ChildLine suggests almost 45,000 children in the UK called them about bullying between 2012 and 2013.

Meanwhile anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label says seven out of 10 young people in the UK (roughly five million teenagers) say they have been bullied online - that's according to their cyberbullying survey of 2013.

Newspaper article about Izzy Dix

Sandy says she doesn't claim to be an expert when it comes to mental health issues or bullying.

One of her biggest fears is that a young person she is in contact with may seriously harm themselves.

"One day, God forbid, one of these kids, how will I feel if one of them actually does? I'll feel like I've let them down," she says."

"If one of these actually takes their own lives, I'm not sure how I'll deal with that. I'm not sure how I'll keep going.

BBC Advice has more help and information if you're affected by feelings of suicide.

She offers all kinds of support, from helping parents of bullied teenagers contact the relevant authorities, to spending hours talking with young people who are struggling.

I think these kids are being sold desperately short of what they need. They don't trust adults
Sandy

John Cameron, head of the NSPCC's helpline, says adults in the community can help play an important role in safeguarding children.

"The difficulty is realising the extent to which you can help and knowing the limitations of the skills you have," he explains.

Children who have "complex needs" are also likely to need professional help as well, Mr Cameron says.

"I wouldn't want to criticise anybody from going beyond that brief but they need to recognise that sometimes [it] is not helpful and it can create a number of difficulties."

Sandy helped me, she listened to me - she properly listened, she did not judge me
Teenage girl from Devon

When Newsbeat first visited Sandy in January of this year, she was running the support group from her kitchen, on an "ancient laptop" that whirred every time it was used.

On the return trip six months later, she's still working on her dining table, but she has upgraded the computer, at her own expense.

"I haven't got dining room chairs. I can't get the cat done [neutered] and I haven't got the second pot of paint [for the kitchen wall, but] I've got a good laptop for now," she says.

While some of the people Sandy helps are being bullied by people they know from school, or locally, others are being trolled by people they have never met.

The messages can include threats of rape or murder, or encourage the recipient to take their own life.

Some teenagers told her they had their social media accounts replicated, with someone then pretending to be them online.

Laptop showing the Izzy Dix memorial page

Sandy tells the people who get in touch with her to take screen grabs of the abuse and send it to the police.

As well as the online support she gives, Sandy has recently set up a "network" in the offline world, where teenagers who have been through similar experiences of bullying can meet up in a safe space.

It's here that Newsbeat meets some of the young people Sandy is helping.

While some of them find it difficult to talk about their experiences, one thing they all want do is share their thoughts about Sandy.

"I got called names. I was spat on. I had no friends," one wrote in an essay about her experiences.

"Sandy helped me, she listened to me - she properly listened, she did not judge me.

"She saved my life."

I wouldn't want to criticise anybody from going beyond that brief but they need to recognise that sometimes [it] is not helpful
John Cameron
Head of NSPCC helplines

Established charities already offer dedicated services such as phone helplines and online counselling to help young people talk through their feelings, but Sandy says even when she recommends them, the teenagers she helps are not keen to use them.

Sandy acknowledges that the people operating these services may have more training, but says that at least she is "opening an avenue of communication".

"When they come up with something better, brilliant," she says.

"Until then if the kids are going to talk to me and the parents are going to talk to me because they feel they have nowhere else to go...

"Do I say 'no, I might get into trouble if I talk to you?' And the answer to that is no."

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