Facebook (FB) is stepping up to promote mental health awareness. In honor of World Mental Health Day 2019 on October 10, the social media giant is donating up to $1 million to a group of mental health organizations through the release of the “Let’s Talk” sticker pack on its Messenger platform. For every sticker sent by users, Facebook will donate $1, up to $1 million.
“Inside of messaging, people are much more comfortable to talk about things that are personal to them,” Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, told Yahoo Finance’s The Final Round. “It's people who may want to start those conversations, but who may feel a little bit hesitant to do that. One of the things around mental health issues is there's a lot of stigma and people often times may feel constricted. It's hard for them to reach out. And by making it easier with some of these tools to reach out in a light way, we can help facilitate these conversations and sort of open that door.”
Facebook also released a “Let’s Talk” Stories filter, which was created with input from the World Health Organization (WHO), on Thursday. These initiatives come after the social media giant tightened its policies in early September to improve how it handles suicide and self-injury content.
Facebook is not the only platform trying to spread the word about mental health issues. Spotify (SPOT) is also taking part. On Thursday, it launched a new wellness hub, featuring playlists and podcasts geared toward helping listeners easily find content to assist them with focussing on their wellbeing, in honor this day too.
For its part, the WHO created a flyer to encourage people to tag #40seconds on Twitter (TWTR) and Instagram. The theme of World Mental Health Day this year is to improve people’s awareness suicide by taking “40 seconds of action.” That theme is based on the alarming statistic that every 40 seconds someone loses their life.
Social media’s potential impact on youth suicide evolves
These initiatives come at a time when the impact of social media on mental health, brain development, and suicidal ideation is still widely unknown, prompting the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention to invest millions in a study to examine the impact of social media.
“The next generation grew up behind their phones and screens. Phones have replaced the fundamental needs for humanity like human connections,” said Larissa May, founder of #HalfTheStory, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the effects of social media on mental health for the next generation. “Social media consumption is manifested in two ways, internally through depression and anxiety and then externally through aggressive behavior or anti-social behavior, which is leading to culture and epidemic of loneliness.”
May, however, is encouraged that major social media players are working with organizations like hers to invest in real-life connections among young people. She says there is a need to create a “bridge between the community and [social media platforms] to create content to educate the community” about the potential risks, but also the benefits of social media.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.
Brooke DiPalma is a producer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma.