Instagram’s new feature a game changer in mental health awareness

Sulaiman Akbari

BIZ/TECH REPORTER

These days social media plays a role in almost everything, including mental health issues.

Instagram recently introduced a new feature that aims to help with such challenges.

The online photo-sharing network’s new tool helps users anonymously report a friend who posts worrisome content on their Instagram.

The feature, still only available in the U.S. but set to expand internationally, offers options such as talking to a friend, calling a local helpline, or getting information on where to receive tips and support about mental health.

First-year Humber College massage therapy student Isaiah Antwi, 19, said mental health plays a big role when it comes to social media.

“Instagram is a social media outlet where people can feel free to post whatever they want,” Antwi said. “But at the same time, people can post all these negative things that simply go unnoticed.”

Antwi said this issue could be fixed with the new feature from Instagram.

“This new feature will help those dealing with mental health issues who are often overlooked,” he said.

The Canadian Mental Health Association says 20 per cent of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.

Humber College year-four nursing program coordinator Dr. Pamela Adams said social media is a way for people to express themselves.

“People express emotions in all different ways, it’s the interpretation of acknowledgement that we are able to make,” Adams said. “Social media and Instagram does just that.”

She said it all depends on how Instagram or social media is used to determine the importance of mental health issues.

“Some people deal with certain conditions, some people aren’t happy for a few moments, a few hours, or a few days,” Adams said.

She said if the user continuously posts negative posts then there is a chance the user has some mental health issues.

First-year Humber College recreation and leisure services student Thomas Finucan, 21, said it is better for someone who is dealing with mental health issues to speak to someone in person.

“It’s great that Instagram has this new feature but it’s better to seek help in person when it comes to mental health,” Finucan said. “Social media shouldn’t be the first resort.”

He said the face-to-face communication when speaking to someone about mental health is key.

“Mental health is a serious issue and should be talked about in-person rather than online,” Finucan said.

Humber offers on-campus counselling services to those who are dealing with mental problems.

Both Finucan and Antwi agree Instagram made a good decision to focus on mental heath issues even though it is primarily used for photo-sharing.

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