3 Ways Facebook is Supporting Mental Health

2020 has been ripe with change, uncertainty, and endless efforts
to manage the uncertain outcomes of our decisions as best we can.
Beyond the fear of contracting the virus are the new realities of
working from home, virtual schooling, and lack of physical
interaction with colleagues, family, and friends. While
mask-wearing, frequent handwashing and social distancing have
become the norm as a way of avoiding physical illness, ongoing
worry and stress continue to exacerbate mental health
challenges.

For the one in five who already have mental health conditions
– or the one in two who are at risk of developing them – this
issue is an important one, arguably as crucial as physical safety.
Organizations and platforms continue to show their dedication to
this growing issue in a variety of updates. Most recently, as part
of this year’s WWorld Suicide Prevention Day, Facebook
announced
the rollout of several new mental health support
updates. Specifically, the platform is introducing new parameters
on self-harm related content, utilizing mobile messaging to offer
expert support in real-time, and promoting digital literacy on the
topic of suicide prevention.

New parameters around self-harm related content

In a
recent survey
conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more
than half (53%) of adults in the U.S. reported their mental health
has been negatively impacted due to the coronavirus, up from 32
percent in March. Specifically, respondents reported difficulty
sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or
substance abuse (12%) and worsening chronic conditions (12%) due to
increased stress and anxiety.

A separate report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, conducted this past June, found that one in four young
adults between 18 and 24 said they considered suicide in the 30
days prior to the study citing the pandemic as the leading factor.
This topic involves a delicate balance by the part of platforms and
poses new questions and obstacles that must be carefully
considered, specifically what constitutes “harmful” and where
to draw the line between what is in violation of platform
guidelines or not.

Last year Instagram expanded its ban on images of self-harm and
now Facebook is looking to expand upon its already-existing rules
regarding self-harm related content. While some content may not
technically be in violation of the rules, the platform is working
closely with experts to implement restrictions on content including
“depressing quotes or memes” to protect those particularly
vulnerable during these times. This is a difficult line to walk
however, as for some who may not feel comfortable sharing their
struggles, quotes or memes may be a useful coping mechanism.

Chat as a vehicle for crisis support

The proliferation of mobile messaging offers brands and
platforms a number of opportunities to connect with communities in
unprecedented ways.

Recent data from eMarketer shows that in 2020 there are around
2.7 billion mobile phone messaging app users worldwide, and this
number is projected to grow to 3.1 billion by 2023. For context,
this equates to roughly 40 percent of the global population. During
an age of social distancing, the time is now to turn to this trend
as an integral way to share resources, insights, and foster
connection. In this vein, as part of its recent push to support
mental health Facebook is introducing a new, real-time assistance
option via Messenger chat.

“Getting people help in real-time is especially important when
they are in distress. In the coming months, we’ll make it easier
for people to talk in real-time with trained crisis and mental
health support volunteers over Messenger,” the company shared in
its News blog.

With 1.3 billion people using Messenger to date and with plans
officially underway to merge WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger into
a single app, this could be a seamless and non-intrusive way for
those seeking help to get access to the resources they need.

Wellness guides and digital literacy resources

In May Instagram announced its ‘Guides’ options for
profiles, enabling users to more easily discover content including
tips on how to look after your well-being, maintaining connection
with others or managing anxiety or grief from their favorite
creators and brands.

Building on this, Facebook is launching localized guides
offering targeted ways to support those who are struggling. The
company pointed to The Suicide Prevention of India’s guide, which
emphasizes fostering social connectedness, Mentally Aware
Nigeria’s guide catered to having safe conversations about
suicide, and Samaritans HK of Hong Kong guide to simple but
effective ways to check on your friends and loved ones as examples
it seeks to emulate.

Beyond wellness guides, Facebook is doubling down on digital
literacy by incorporating Orygen’s #chatsafe guidelines to its
Safety Center — the primary aim of the move being to help
educators better navigate mental health conversations with their
students. In addition, Facebook unveiled its ‘Get Digital’
digital citizenship and wellbeing program featuring a microsite of
courses spanning key themes of connection, empowerment, and
engagement.

In tandem with the new program, Facebook will host a series of
live events throughout this month September tackling a variety of
key concerns in the midst of an abnormal academic year — the
first of which will leverage insights from the JED Foundation to
address mental health.

Mental health has been a prominent and recurring topic in recent
months but one worth keeping at the front of our messaging and
stories. As marketers, we play an instrumental role in helping
remove the stigma and making the practice of digital empathy more
mainstream. Creating shared understanding and experiences in an age
of social distancing has its challenges, but there are also
tremendous opportunities for how can we use the power of technology
to address these issues.

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3 Ways Facebook is Supporting Mental Health
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3 Ways Facebook is Supporting Mental Health