Social media has really helped open up opportunities for identification of depression and mental illness, and offers significant potential for prevention. Now Instagram have joined parent company Facebook on their task to do their part in helping individuals who might be struggling.
Instagram have introduced a new tool that helps identify and offer support for potential issues of negative mental health. It allows users to anonymously report posts by their friends that they consider to be a concern. These reports result in an automatic notification offering a list of resources for support to the user in question, alongside the words “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 new tool is almost identical to the suicide prevention tools rolled out to UK Facebook users back in February 2016. Flagged posts are reviewed by Instagram’s team who will send the auto-message if they agree that the users could be at risk of self-harm or suicide. Resources include contact details for a helpline, tips and support, and an option to contact a trusted friend. Marni Tomljanovic, a spokeswoman for the network, said this:
“We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review these reports. They prioritise the most serious reports and respond quickly. If someone on Instagram sees a direct threat of suicide or self-injury, we encourage them to contact local emergency services immediately.”
Often warning signs displayed by at-risk individuals on social networking are some of the first that friends will be able to spot. On Instagram the markers can be so specific that a team of researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont recently developed an AI program which can identify clinical depression in users’ posts at an accuracy rate of 70 percent.