TikTok introduces new support measures to combat self-harm and eating disorders


Image of TikTok app on smartphone
Image credit: Hello I'm Nik (Unsplash)

TikTok is increasing the mental health support it provides its users, including resources developed with UK charities to help young people


Plenty of data suggests that social media has a negative influence on mental health. So much so that in a survey earlier this year of 4000 UK adults, 53% thought that social media platforms were doing a poor job of protecting the wellbeing of its users.


Social media companies are seemingly aware of this too. In recent months, Instagram has introduced the ability to hide post 'likes' in an attempt to depressurise the experience of using its platform.


One social media platform that has come under fire is TikTok, particularly with regards to the type of advice it allows to be published on its platform, which is often user-generated and therefore unaccredited.


But it seems TikTok has listened to previous criticisms and is now making an effort to better protect the wellbeing of its community. In partnership with Samaritans and the International Association for Suicide Prevention, TikTok is developing mental health resources to help provide support for its users who may feel suicidal or dealing with an eating disorder.


In addition, the platform will begin directing users to information on where to find support if they search the platform for content around self-harm or suicide, as well as recommend content created by other TikTok members detailing their own experiences. Certain content will also ask the user whether they definitely want to view it. The features will require users to opt-in if they want to make use of them.


“We care deeply about our community, and we always look for new ways in which we can nurture their well-being, " the company said in a statement. "That’s why we’re taking additional steps to make it easier for people to find resources when they need them on TikTok.”

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Still more to be done


TikTok is one of the more active social media giants trying to remedy the rising rates of mental health issues resulting from the pandemic. In October last year, the company introduced its mental health and wellbeing 'warriors' campaign that highlighted specific creators who would share beneficial advice for those who were struggling.


Outside of TikTok though, a different story has recently emerged. Reported by The Wall Street Journal, leaked research conducted by Facebook seemingly highlighted the company's awareness of how Instagram impacts young people and its subsequent inaction in dealing with it.


The presentation showed that 13% of UK users and 6% of US users could trace their suicidal thoughts back to Instagram. The research also found that 32% of teenage girls and 14% of boys in the US said that Instagram made them feel worse about their bodies and themselves.


In a blog post response to the report, head of public policy at Instagram, Karina Newton, said the company is continuously looking to improve ways in which it protects its community from harmful content:


"We’ve done extensive work around bullying, suicide and self-injury, and eating disorders, to help make Instagram a safe and supportive place for everyone. Based on our research and feedback from experts, we’ve developed features so people can protect themselves from bullying, we’ve given everyone the option to hide like counts, and we’ve continued to connect people who may be struggling with local support organisations."


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor for Talking Mental Health