by LYDIA NATHAN / pic by TMR GRAPHIC
SOCIAL media platforms have initiated a campaign to address mental health as they begin to understand the strong link between the issue and Malaysians’ use of social media.
Photo-sharing social network Instagram launched its #RealTalk campaign yesterday, collaborating with NGOs, experts and content creators to stimulate more conversations about the stigma surrounding mental health in today’s day and age.
The campaign started off with a discussion on normalising and de-stigmatising mental wellbeing in a digital world.
Instagram head of public policy Philip Chua wanted Instagram to be a space where one can find reliable information from various accounts.
“#RealTalk is designed to bring people together to have an open conversation on mental health, create a safe space for Malaysians to express and navigate the challenges, and find the support they need at this difficult time,” he told the media at the virtual #RealTalk Mental Well-Being Panel Session yesterday.
He added that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a reminder to people on the importance of mental health, and according to an Ipsos survey, 44% of Malaysians have suffered from it.
“This points to the urgency of the matter and the need for a more serious conversation. In fact, more than 750,000 people in Malaysia are members of 20,000 active Facebook groups dedicated for people seeking support in maintaining mental wellness,” he said.
Chua said in conjunction with the campaign, Instagram introduced a new set of tools that will give users more control of one’s experience on the platform.
“Among the features are controlling who can message you directly, allowing people to tag or mention you and bulk deleting up to 25 comments at one time,” he said.
He also said Instagram is on the course of testing a new feature which automatically hides comments similar to what has been reported already.
“Instagram will also expand comment warnings to include additional warnings if a person attempts to repeatedly post potentially offensive comments.
“Another change is the ‘Instagram Guides’, a new feature which will allow users to find recommendations, tips and other wellness content easily from public figures, organisations and publishers,” Chua said.
The Mental Illness Awareness & Support Association (MIASA) and digital platform Naluri have been the first to create “Instagram Guides” aimed at educating people on creating and maintaining connections with others and managing anxiety or grief.
The “guide” feature will showcase posts and videos that the creator has curated alongside helpful advice and tips, which can be shared as a post or story.
MIASA president Anita Abu Bakar said it is a common perception that mental health issues are rare, while most families are not prepared to cope with this.
“It can be physically and emotionally trying, and can make us feel vulnerable to the opinions and judgements of others.
“Because of this, MIASA is looking forward to this partnership with Facebook Malaysia and Instagram to bring about awareness of mental wellness and de-stigmatise mental illness in our society,” she said.
Naluri co-founder Azran Osman Rani said the pandemic has accelerated the state of mental health today, but it is good that it is happening during a technological era.
“Technology has allowed us to bring professional support to people in an accessible and convenient way. We have a goal to end the stigma of mental health, to encourage people to express what they feel and more importantly, to seek help,” he said.
Meanwhile, the discussion also delved into today’s youth and the impact social media can have on one.
Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Ariz Ramli hoped school counsellors can be retrained and upskilled to deal with the effects that youth face today.
“Social media exposes children to so many different things at such a young age and schools are ill-equipped to deal with its repercussions.
“I have seen children forced to move schools because of (cyber) bullying,” he said, adding that the Education Ministry should play a larger role in this aspect.
Additionally, Anita said children under the age of 18 are more vulnerable and need to find a trusted adult to talk to.
“This info needs to be fed to parents and if one cannot do this, then look for an adult you can trust who will listen and respect you. This has worked a lot in the past,” she said.
She added that MIASA recently created a poll for adolescents and college students regarding topics that parents need to be aware of regarding emotional challenges.
“We had some really good feedback as we will create infographics and a module to be distributed to parents.
“This will give parents the push to become aware of what is happening in the lives of their children. Families should ultimately be the safe space for a child,” Anita said.