Research has shown us the many effects of social media on any individual’s mental health. We know that it serves as a positive resource at times, but also can have negative effects. Thankfully, many social media platforms are shining light on the importance of mental health and suicide prevention through a variety of different measures.
Facebook has implemented policy changes and improvements to help them remove any content focused on self-harm or suicide. In the months of July through September (2019), they removed 2.5 million posts. The types of posts they are removing are posts that are graphic and/or could be triggering for other individuals. For example, an image of self-harm is something that would be banned. We obviously want information made available focused on suicide prevention, so it is important to note they are not getting rid of that kind of content. It is only content that could be damaging for viewers. Facebook also has the option to report posts if someone is worried about suicide or self-harm in one of their friends. After you make the report, Facebook will reach out to that person to see if they would like help. For step by step instructions on how to report a post click here.
Instagram is another social media platform that is doing many beneficial things to improve the mental health of its users. Similar to Facebook, it also has the option report a post if you are worried that someone might be thinking about suicide or self-harm. For step by step instructions on how to report a post on Instagram click here. Along with this, Instagram also recently announced they will be getting rid of “likes”. Users can still see who liked their post, but the total number does not appear. There are many Instagram accounts where this has already been updated. This could have a very positive effect on the mental health of users, especially young users. Many youth share a post only to see how many likes they can get from a post. Now without knowing that number, individuals can post without the anxiety or worry about the number of likes they get. Users can still share their photos, but there is less of a focus on instant gratification. Also, many social media users tend to compare their posts to their friends’ posts, even if they do without realizing it. Instagram is hopeful that by possibly getting rid of likes, the mental health of users is going to improve. Only time will tell if this measure truly works, but either way it shows that big social media platforms care about these issues and are doing something to make them better.
Twitter also has a form you can complete if you see a tweet which has threats of self-harm or suicide. Click here for a link to their form. They will reach out to that individual and let them know someone is concerned about them and will also give them resources including the suicide lifeline.
If the person who is posting on social media is a friend of yours, the best option is to directly reach out to that person yourself. More than likely the person who is posting on social media is doing so as a cry out to anyone who will listen. If you do not feel comfortable reaching out, the next best option is to report the post on whatever social media platform.
If you see a post on social media and you believe the person might be in immediate physical danger, it is important you contact the local authorities.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
Katie Zimmerman, Project Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Katie Zimmerman joined The Kim Foundation in June 2019. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and Sociology from Central College in Pella, Iowa. During her time in college, she volunteered at many non-profits organizations and took multiple sociology classes which focused on mental health. Katie’s role at The Kim Foundation includes running the social media accounts, assisting in the Youth Advisory Council, and providing mental health awareness and education to the community through A Voice for Hope and Healing presentations.