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Snapchat introduces new interventions for mental health

If you’re facing depression, anxiety, or anorexia, Snapchat wants to be there to help.

Snapchat introduces new interventions for mental health
[Image: Snap Inc]

Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube have made their stance relatively clear: Use these platforms at your own risk. They’re not the truth police, and whether or not other people harass you is up to you to handle. Of course we know where this has gotten us. We now have everything from a hacked election to a range of mental health issues among social media users to show for it.

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Last year, Pinterest drew a line in the sand, banning anti-vaxx content and directing people to information from the World Health Organization when searching for harmful misinformation. Now Snap is taking similar steps to claim some responsibility for its users’ experience. While Snap has fact-checked all public content on Snapchat for years, the company is adding a new tool called Here For You to the service. So if you search topics ranging from depression to thinspo (the “thinsperation” content that can promote anorexia), Snap’s results will intervene with helpful content written by experts.

[Image: Snap Inc]
The move is meant to protect the particularly young and malleable users of Snapchat—90% of all 13- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. use the service (which Snap readily points out is more than Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger combined). “Sometimes people come in and search for this kind of content, be it anxiety or depression,” says Jen Stout, vice president of global policy at Snap. “Instead of being served up maybe nothing, or meme accounts, or something like that, we’re looking for a healthy alternative to provide young people with tools that would be readily available in the app.”

Snap declined to share any metrics on how often users were searching such topics, but the company-conducted user research that found its users commonly experience feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. Here For You is meant to be a resource, baked right into the app, that can answer questions about these problems.

The content on Here For You is going to be styled in the exact same way as any other programming on Snapchat. The media will appear in brief, 10-second clips, and users can tap through to learn more. The company will team up with unannounced local partners to create these clips, and Snap will be sharing its best practices in editing for nonprofits and others to make the content engaging.

Aside from Here For You, Snap will also use the results page to promote curated shows that it or its partners have produced on topics like anxiety or depression. That might sound a little self-promotional, but then again, if the content is already on the service, and it’s helpful to this audience, Snap is only surfacing it in a clear way.

While Here For You technically launches today, Snap will be making many more updates and announcements to it over the coming year.

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“We feel a real responsibility to try to make a positive impact with some of our youngest, sometimes most vulnerable users on our platform,” says Stout. “We know this is the first step of a lot of work we want to do to provide the right resources to our users.”

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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