Social media can be a lot, especially for people dealing with any kind of mental health issues.  Think about it for a moment.  If you’ve got depression, all you’re seeing are posts of people loving life and being successful.  Or if you’ve got anxiety, you see these social situations and can’t possibly think how you would be able to participate in something that scary.  I mean, people don’t post the bad stuff do they?  Apparently they do.  Instagram has decided that it is going to hide images that show self-harm behind their “sensitivity screens”.  Why are they implementing this feature?  It’s part of their efforts to combat the spread of images that depict suicide or self-harm following the suicide of a British teenager, Molly Russell.

Russell’s parents believe that their daughter took her own life after seeing graphic images of self-harm on Instagram and Pinterest.  But I’m not sure that I buy that. As someone who suffers from depression, and who has considered self-harm as an option, I don’t believe that my motivator would be seeing someone else hurt themselves. In fact, I think if I saw that, I might take a step back and re-evaluate what I think I should do because I would see their pain. But maybe it’s not like that for everyone. My thoughts on this make me wonder if this new Instagram feature would be helpful or not.

Please note, the video below may be upsetting to some of our readers.

Instagram CEO, Adam Mosseri has indicated that Instagram will be looking into “engineers and trained content reviewers” who will make it harder for people to find that kind of content. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that I want to see that images of self-harm or suicide. I am not going out and looking for it. But as someone who is empathetic to the struggles of other peoples, but not her own, I could see myself feeling sad for the person who had hurt themselves. It would also make me think about the impact that kind of action would have on my family or boyfriend, and in my case, I would think twice about it.

Another question we should be considering is whether or not it’s actually Instagram’s responsibility to take action in this regard. The short answer is yes. They are already blocking images of cutting from appearing in searches, hashtags and account recommendations, and I think that’s a step in the right direction.

But if Instagram removes those images, are they actually censoring people from sharing their stories with their community? Perhaps the post could help another person realize that self-harm isn’t the option. Maybe there’s more to it than just thinking that people are going to see these images and then hurt themselves as well? While I definitely think Instagram has a part to play in all of this, I also think that we shouldn’t hide mental health issues in the closet. Racism and hate speech are different because I’m not convinced that spreading it is actually helping anyone. Spreading information and awareness about mental health isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If one person’s life can be saved, after seeing a picture of self-harm from someone who couldn’t be saved, then I think the awareness is successful.

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