Cries for help are all too common on social media. The next time you see one on Instagram, though, you’ll be able to do something about it. Facebook Inc.’s Instagram has introduced a tool aimed to prevent suicide, self-harm and eating disorders by providing timely help to those in need.
Instagram’s approach relies on its users rather than algorithms to flag posts. If you think a post looks like a threat of suicide or other self-injury, you can anonymously report that post.
“We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review these reports,” said Instagram spokeswoman Marni Tomljanovic. “They prioritize 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.”
Every flagged post is reviewed by Instagram’s team. If it agrees that it could be a threat of suicide or self-injury, the user who posted it will see a notification that says “Can we help?” with a message reading, “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.”
This prompt also offers three options: “Talk to a friend,” “Contact a helpline” and “Get tips and support.” Instagram says it has partnerships with more than 40 different organizations around the world that specialize in offering support services to people who are contemplating suicide and other self harm.
Among the groups Instagram is working with are the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the National Eating Disorders Association, Save.org and Samaritans.
“We also consulted with people with real-life experience with eating disorders, self-injury or suicide,” Ms. Tomljanovic said. “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.”