Trish O'Loughlin

18 October 2016

Instagram’s Brand New Feature Plants Focus on Mental Health

In the wake of World Mental Health Day last week, Instagram has unleashed a shiny new feature that’s got mental health experts rejoicing to the heavens. Unlike past updates, which have usually revolved around adding new filters or display options, the latest addition enhances user-experience in an extremely refreshing way.

The social media giant has introduced a digital alert system designed to help monitor users’ behaviours and provide support for those who appear to be suffering mentally. It’s an ingenious idea that has been incorporated into Instagram’s design with the help of organisations like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the National Eating Disorder Association, and it’s one we predict will prove highly beneficial.

How does it work?

The new tool allows users to flag a photo anonymously when they think a fellow Instagrammer is in need of some support. From there, that Instagrammer will receive a private message that reads: “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.” The platform then suggests a series of options, including talking to a friend, calling a local helpline or finding more information on tips and support.

The language and strategies employed have been created with the help of mental health experts, designed to let users who are suffering know that they are surrounded by a caring and supportive community. In an era where face-to-face interaction is rapidly relinquishing from our social fabric, the idea of a digital support group is highly applauded.

Why do we need this?

As one of the most popular mobile apps to grace society, Instagram is often hailed as the Holy Grail of self-advertisement. It’s an ideal platform to parcel one’s life up into a neat mosaic of pretty images illustrating all those enviable tribulations. With the plethora of filters available, the photographs that appear on Instagram are often critically thought-out and pedantically polished before being posted for the world to see.

However, there also exists a multitude of Instagram accounts dedicated purely to mental health issues. After a simple hashtag search of terms like #thinspiration, #anorexia, #depression and #anxiety, mental health sufferers can swiftly coalesce in an online hangout space wherein they can express themselves in their rawest form – and at times, dangerously fuel one another’s insecurities.

The chance to flag these images may be a baby step in society’s overall mental health journey, but it is a monumental leap in the right direction for social media platforms.

When can we get our hands on it?

The latest Instagram feature is currently only available to US users, but rumours have it that it should hit Australian shores in the not-too-distant future. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled and our updates current.

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