In honor of the 27th annual World Mental Health Day Facebook and Pinterest want you to know they are striving to make positive impacts on the mental health of platform users who may be struggling with depression or suicidal ideations.
Unlike many of the newly dreamt up ever-increasing list of random “I’ve-never-seen-that-on-a-calendar-before” days (National Pancake Day, Talk Like A Pirate Day, Work Like A Dog Day, Hug A Sheep Day, etc.) you’ve likely encountered on whatever your preferred social media outlet of choice may be, this advocacy day has a hefty “raison d’être”.
According to World Health Organization statistics, “Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds”. World Mental Health Day began in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health as a way to promote mental health advocacy and educate the public on relevant issues.
The intersection of Social media and mental health is a hot topic for researchers. A quick search of academic literature covering “Mental Health” and “Social Media” on google scholar came up with well over 15,000 articles published this year alone.
The truism, “Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel” has become a cliche but it can take a significant conscious effort not to compare ourselves to the curated presentations of online friends we may or may not actually know well in person. Most mental health professionals agree extensive time spent on social media platforms may generally not be good for our health.
Pinterest and Facebook used this year’s World Mental Health Day to highlight efforts those companies have been making to counter the oft-publicized negative mental health impacts of social media. Both companies showcased the methods they employ to help connect struggling individuals with resources during times of depression or crisis.
The Pinterest announcement revealed several initiatives including a collection of “emotional well-being activities” available to users by searching for #pinterestwellbeing on the Pinterest app, a one-click connection to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, an updated self-harm policy and implementing machine learning technology that can identify and hide self-injury content from the platform. Pinterest says this has decreased user reports of self-injury content 88% over the last year.
Facebook’s news post highlighted a “Let’s Talk” stories/camera filter and a matching sticker pack they hope will encourage users to reach out to friends who may be having a hard time. According to Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Global Head of Safety, “Each time a sticker is sent, Facebook will donate $1 to a group of mental health organizations, up to $1 million USD. It’s our hope that these tools will make it easier for people to begin conversations that can lead to support.” The post also reminded readers of the platform’s Online Well-being page located within Facebook’s safety center which offers further connection to suicide prevention resources.
On a personal note, my favorite World Mental Health Day post this year was Laughing Matters, The Funny Business Of Being Sad, a 30-minute documentary collaboration between Soulpancake and FunnyOrDie. It’s really well done, filled with recognizable humorists I have tremendous respect for being candid, vulnerable and honest.
Header Image: Pinterest
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Andrea earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, an MA & MBA from Southern Methodist University and, most recently, a Master of Social Work with a concentration in Direct Practice Health Services from The University of Texas at Arlington.