Hello angels, welcome back to my blog!
Disclaimer: This blog post does contain references to suicide and self-harm, which some readers will find triggering. If this is something that will trigger you, please click off and I will see you in my next post on Friday!
You may have seen in the news recently, that social media sites are making minimal attempts to protect users from viewing extremely harmful and explicit images of suicide related images and self-harm. Children as young as thirteen years old are able to search for these images, which is heart breaking to think about. Additionally, I was extremely saddened to read the story of Molly Russell. Molly was a fourteen year old school girl, that sadly took her own life in 2017, after viewing such images online. Her father believes that Instagram ‘helped to kill his daughter’.
Molly’s father, Ian Russell was kind enough to talk to myself about the charity which has been made in memory of Molly: The Molly Rose Foundation. Their charity focuses on suicide prevention, and helping sufferers receive the support and practical advice that they need to keep themselves safe. I would really appreciate it if my readers could donate to The Molly Rose Foundation, or share their website so that it can reach more people in need. You can find their website here.
What is a pro-community?
A pro-community glorifies having a mental illness, and encourages users to harm themselves continually. Social media accounts use specific hashtags to connect with people that share similar experiences. The hashtags focus on different mental health disorders and words related to suicide. Users in a pro-community post harmful images, documenting their journey of self-harm. I was shocked to discover the amount of profiles that encourage people to hurt themselves more. Researching for this blog post was an emotional experience, and one of the hardest things that I have ever done. However, this is something that needs to be talked about, and as a mental health advocate I feel that I need to start the conversation, today.
I contacted one Instagram user that was previously part of a pro-community. They told me about their experiences and struggles with a diagnosis of depression and bipolar disorder. Regrettably, they did promote self-mutilation using Instagram, which was a coping mechanism that they found to battle their own demons at the time. They felt a lack of control over their actions, as a result of the trauma which they received in their life. They stated ‘I was in a state of mind that made me very suicidal, and to the point where I didn’t care what I did or said, because I’d eventually be dead’.
Having this discussion showed me that sufferers of mental illness should not be blamed for social media’s inability to protect them from harmful content. If you suffer from mental illness yourself, you will know that it can become extremely overwhelming. Irrational thoughts are at the forefront of your mind and urges can be especially difficult to challenge. It is not the fault of sufferers that these actions are used as a cry for help. We should be helping them, not pushing them deeper into pro-communities with feelings of blame and destructiveness.
The effects of a pro-community
Children are being taught that self-harm is a coping mechanism; that depression is something ‘desirable’; that their struggle isn’t ‘real’ unless they have been admitted to hospital more than ten times… In these communities, users are so mentally unwell that they can’t rationalise their thoughts. They are invested in a competition between profiles, of who can be more ill, until the pain of mental illness causes them to take their life.
Instagram have made minimal attempts to remove the harmful content which Molly and millions of other young people have been exposed to. Instagram state: ‘Our thoughts go out to Molly’s family and anyone dealing with the issues raised. We do not allow content that promotes or glorifies eating disorders, self-harm or suicide and work hard to remove it.’ Words such as ‘self-harm’ and ‘suicide’ are met with a warning when searched, although users can close this message and view the content extremely easily.
Reputable brands such as M&S have publicly declared that they will stop advertising on Instagram, as they were unaware that their advertisements are being placed next to images of self-harm. It is extremely saddening that the loss of a life could not prompt Instagram to implement changes, but their loss of money is enough to do so.
Changes to be made by Instagram
I believe that Instagram are responsible for protecting their users from viewing harmful and graphic content. I have detailed below some potential ideas which can remove the glorification of mental illnesses, self-harm and suicide on their platform specifically.
- Any post with a trigger word (such as self-harm or suicide) is flagged up, and the top comment is permanently a help-line phone number, which directs users to support systems.
- Any drafted post with a trigger word is reviewed by Instagram before it can be posted. This will protect users from viewing potentially harmful content.
- Any drafted post which shows photographs or videos of new self-harm is not allowed to be posted. Self-harm scars are nothing to be embarrassed of, and I am not promoting hiding your scars or being ashamed of them in any way. I am however, suggesting that images of new self-harm and self-harm tools are extremely harmful and should not be available for viewing by people as young as thirteen years old.
- Including advertisements for mental health charities, promoting services which can help users. This will replace the harmful ‘support’ of pro-communities with the genuine support systems of professionals in the mental health sector.
- Users drafting and posting content including trigger words receive an automated message, which contains the contact information of local support systems and services which can be accessed. This will prove to users that they are important, and that they deserve to receive professional help with their mental illness.
If you are part of a pro-community
If you are currently part of a pro-community, please continue to read this.
I know you live with clouds that have taken away your light. You can’t remember the last time you made it through the day without faking a smile. You believe that you are deserving of the pain that you inflict on yourself, but believe me when I say that you aren’t. After falling into a pro-community where you are loved for hurting yourself, and it has convinced you that happiness is something out of reach. There are people that dedicate their lives to supporting people like you and I, please let them help you. Things will get better. I am living proof of that, and if you would like to contact me I would be happy to support you and tell you the reasons that suicide is not where your story ends.
How you can help to create change
I have created a petition which you can find here, campaigning to the owner of Instagram (Adam Mosseri) to create change on his platform. I would appreciate your help with making social media safer, and to prevent losing more lives to suicide, due to exposure to harmful content. Please support me in reaching this goal!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. If you would like to support my campaign to remove harmful content from the social media platform, Instagram, please click here.
This blog post was written to honour the memory of Molly Russell, and to all lives taken by suicide. Rest peacefully angels.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please share it, so that further people can add to the conversation and make greater change.
See you on Friday for a new post!
Love Casey x
Below are links to websites that can support you if you are suffering from a mental illness.
116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call)
0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday)