Instagram Now Offers Mental Health Support

The photo-sharing app launched a tool to anonymously flag users who seem to be having a hard time

Illustration: Vocativ
Oct 19, 2016 at 11:17 AM ET

Instagram is often used to present a carefully-curated version of one’s life, but it isn’t necessarily the best representation of reality. And if you’re scrolling through your feed and realize something seems a bit off with someone, there’s a new feature that will let you flag the account so that Instagram can send them a message offering support.

Once you flag a pic, Instagram will send the user 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.” It will then offer various options for getting help, including the option to talk to a friend, numbers for support hotlines, and advice for seeking mental health counseling. The feature was developed by Instagram in a partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the National Eating Disorder Association.

Instagram will also automatically redirect users when they search topics related to self-harm. Instead of getting the desired results, they’ll instead see the same support options they’d get if one of their photos had been flagged. Some hashtags (like #thinspo) have already been banned from the platform.

Instagram COO Marne Levine says the “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.” Along with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have similar options to report someone you think might be in danger of harming themselves too. And as the line between people’s online lives and regular lives are increasingly blurred, it’s nice to see these services proactively making these resources available.