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by Barbara Eruo

Instagram Takes A Stand Against Self-Harm


What would you think if you saw someone liking photos of self-harm and self-destructive behavior? You happened to glance at her phone and find that this person was scrolling through a very dark media feed. One more tap, and she added another photo to her collection of disturbing images, some depicting different ways to hurt yourself. Now, imagine if it was your child.

Like millions of other people, I find myself scrolling through Instagram pretty often, tapping that heart button every now and then. It can be quite interesting. However, there is a dark side to this kind of power. Through this platform, some people post about suicide and self-harm, choosing to share graphic photos of their pain.

And this type of darkness can spread. After Molly Russell took her own life in 2017, her family immediately started searching for what brought her to that point. They discovered that the young girl’s account had a lot of content on depression, self-harm, and suicide. In the eyes of Ian Russell, Molly’s father, Instagram had “helped kill” his daughter (1).

In response, Instagram started to set some things into motion.

Instagram Needs to Protect Its Communities

As it is now, Instagram depends on its users to report images of self-harm when they come across it. But a measure like that has its limits. It leaves room for plenty of pictures and communities to slip through the cracks. In efforts to take more action, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, pledged this month that they will remove all graphic images of self-harm from the platform.

Here is an overview of what they have promised (2):

  • Start to make it harder for people to search for and find self-harm content
  • Restrict the ability of users to find the content through hashtags
  • Introduce sensitivity screens over self-harm content
  • Stop recommending accounts that post self-harm content

For those wondering why Instagram had even let self-harm photos be on their platform, there is a reason. According to Mosseri, Instagram allowed self-harm content in the past as a form of admission “because people sometimes need to tell their story – but we haven’t allowed anything that promoted self-harm” (1).

Whether or not they follow through on their promises is something on which we will have to keep note moving forward. What this situation goes to show is that we need to be ever conscious of mental health issues and the ways in which they are expressed. With depression in particular, people don’t talk about it enough. Especially in today’s society, depression needs to take center stage among the many issues with which we are faced.

If we as a society make more effort towards learning about depression, we can better equip ourselves on how to how to overcome it – as well as help others through it.

For more information on depression, you can read more here.






1. “Instagram Vows to Remove All Graphic Self-Harm Images from Site.” BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-47160460

2. “Instagram: Girl Tells How She Was ‘Hooked’ on Self-Harm Images.” BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-47069865



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