Students, CMHC offer perspective on new Instagram flagging feature

Sunny Kim

This past week, Instagram announced it would step up and spread awareness of posts that reflect self-harm by adding a new feature on its app that allows users to anonymously flag their friend’s posts if they think the posts show concerning signs of mental health issues.

When users flag posts, the friend will receive suggestions such as messaging or calling a close friend. Based on the user’s location, they will also receive access to a nearby help-line.

Tumblr is one of many social media sites students may turn to when dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues. Biochemistry sophomore Chaitraja Kurati has used Tumblr’s similar features before.

“Sometimes when you’re in the thick of an anxious or depressive period, all you might need is a nudge in the right direction like that to help you out of it,” Kurati said in an email.

Kurati said she is happy to see other social media networks, such as Instagram, take initiative on mental health awareness.     

“For the company to make you feel not so alone, talking to you as a person rather than to the masses, it was kind of eye-opening and it made you feel really good,” Kurati said.

Psychology sophomore Brianna Dennis-McCrory, a peer educator for the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, said this new feature can be helpful or harmful, depending on how well-trained Instagram’s response team is. 

“It’s always great to see popular sites bringing awareness to mental health,” Dennis-McCrory said. “[But] unless they have a team trained for responding, trigger words could upset the person and cause an undesired response.” 

Marla Craig, associate director for clinical services at the CMHC, said she is looking forward to the new feature as it can help connect the idea of mental health awareness to the public.

“I think that any way or any opportunity we get to provide people with information about mental health resources is a great opportunity,” Craig said. “Since there are a lot of Facebook users, a lot of Instagram users, if that’s the way we can connect to people, identify if they are feeling sad or down and connect them to resources, that’s fantastic.”

This story has been updated since its initial publication.