It's a scary feeling to see a loved one's cry for help. Oftentimes, we're left feeling powerless and questioning if, or how, we should act.
Many of us, unfortunately, know what that gut-wrenching moment feels like. Especially in the age of social media. You're scrolling through your feed — past the baby pics and food photos — and you spot it: a post from a friend that doesn't feel ... right. Your stomach churns, your heart begins to beat faster, and you ask yourself: Is my friend about to hurt themselves?
Should I call him? No, I don't want to offend. Should I tell her mom about this? Probably not. It's none of my business anyway...
We live in a world where posts from friends concerning self-harm, depression, and suicide aren't all that rare. The good news is that Instagram recognizes this, and it's doing something about it.
As part of its #PerfectlyMe initiative celebrating the strength of support networks, the photo-sharing app is rolling out new features to help users anonymously report a friend they're worried about if they see one of those scary posts or messages.
After the post is reported, that friend will get a message from Instagram that notes, "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 feature will then offer your friend a few options, like the ability to contact a help line directly or read tips on getting support and accessing help.
Instagram is also aware that what a person seeks out through its hashtag search — such as #ImNotOK — can say a lot about what's on their mind. To address this, the app has a new feature that will send a message to a user if they search for a hashtag that's associated with self-harm.
Instagram worked with experts from groups like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the National Eating Disorders Association to make sure the language being used in the feature was appropriate and helpful.
"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," Marne Levine, Instagram's chief operating officer, told Seventeen magazine. "At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don't know how best to reach out."
Instagram's new feature is social media at its finest: connecting people around the world and giving them tools to help one another.
Social apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can get a bad rap. Sometimes, they provide a platform for bullies. Other times, they're used to spread hate and bigotry by those with the wrong ideas.
"These tools," Levine explained, "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."