Instagram users now have the opportunity to raise concerns relating to the mental health of individuals they follow online, with a new reporting tool being introduced recently. Instagram is following the lead of parent company Facebook, and has introduced a popup message when someone is searching potentially harmful hashtags or a post is flagged by a friend. The message offers support, tips, and access to a health line, such as Lifeline or Headspace.

Instagram has a particularly young demographic, comprising predominately of teenagers and young adults. Recent research suggests that the prevalence of mental health concerns for people within this demographic are skyrocketing to unprecedented rates. Peter Hayton, senior psychologist at The Banyans Health and Wellness applauds Instagram for implementing a serious but beneficial feature.

“In an adolescent group, those who are most aware of a person’s concerning social media posts are usually their peers, who are also unequipped or unable to help,” Peter observes. “Moreover, some people may feel uncomfortable addressing their concerns for their friends mental health and safety.” Instagram’s anonymous reporting feature addresses these concerns. “People may feel like they are able to do something for their friend without having to face it head on.”

By monitoring the searches of users and alerting them with a message prompt when a potentially harmful pattern is detected, Instagram is encouraging user protection and safety on their platform. This is also reflected in their recent banning of the hashtag #thinspo from their search results – a hashtag being used to encourage unhealthy eating patterns and eating disorders.

Peter emphasizes the importance of support for people who concerned for their friends or family who may be experiencing thoughts and/or actions of self harm. “It can be extremely burdening when you are trying to carry a situation like that on your own,” he says. “Even if your friend has sworn you to secrecy or will not seek help themselves, it is important that you are also keeping yourself safe.” Remember that keeping a secret is not as important as keeping someone alive, a good friend will always seek help as soon as there is some talk of current self harm concerns. For young people, Peter recommends Beyond Blue, Headspace, a school counsellor, or your local psychologist.


This article was based on a report by TechCrunch.