instagram's new feature helps monitor your mental health

The app's latest function could be a literal life-saver.

by Hannah Ongley
18 October 2016, 4:21pm


Social media has been a legitimate platform for conversations about mental health since the dawn of LiveJournal. Since Instagram hit the app store in the early 2010s, garnering some 500 million monthly active users in around five years, it has inevitably been used for sharing sharing things other than matcha lattes and Pepe memes. Even Justin Bieber has taken a break from sharing his fresh ink and vacay cornrows to get real about the emotional toll of dealing with overzealous fans. But not every post addresses mental health so overtly, and it's these more subtle cries for help that Instagram is helping with its latest super-important feature. Users who see an allusion to self-harm, an eating disorder, or suicide now have the option of anonymously reporting it. The person who posted the photo will then receive a message that says: "Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we'd like to help." They will also be presented with the option to call a helpline, speak to a friend, or get tips and support. 

"We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress. At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don't know how best to reach out," Instagram chief operating officer Marne Levine told Seventeen. "These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder."

This isn't the first time Instagram has attempted to help users suffering from mental health issues. Earlier this year they started testing a troll filter function that automatically deletes abusive comments. In 2012, the app banned a range of hashtags including #thinspiration, #thighgap, and #proana to try and stop people from searching for them. After realizing that all this encouraged was creative spelling, users are now provided with a message before seeing flagged content. According to Seventeen, Instagram worked with groups like National Eating Disorders Association and The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to come up with the best language for its latest feature. Shout out to the app for going the extra step. 

Related: Adwoa Aboah is getting girls talking about mental health


Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Instagram

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