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Instagram App Offering Mental Health Intervention

Instagram App Offering Mental Health Intervention

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Social media and online networking are such a relevant aspect of our world today. With entire enterprises rising from online marketing, and children carrying smartphones, technology continues to be integrated into all areas of life by leaps and bounds. So with social media being utilized for basically every purpose, from personal to business, it is no surprise that some forward thinkers continue to find ways to put these all-encompassing outlets to good use.

Though stunning selfies full of filters, scenes of nature with inspiring quotes, and aesthetically perfect pictures of food dominate the Instagram app, the social media site isn’t void of some damaging content. Instagram is still used as a platform for some questionable photos, like pro-anorexia and pro-self-harm posts.

To fight back Instagram is now launching a new tool that allows users to issues. But they don’t stop there. The Instagram app also steps in to offer intervention options.

Instagram App VS Eating Disorders

The Instagram app already actively takes a stand on promoting positive mental health in some areas. It tried in 2012 to put a stop to pro-eating disorder posts. Often hashtags like #thinspiration and #ana are attached to these posts, so to prevent these tags from attracting admiration, the Instagram app tried to make these tags unsearchable. They also disabled accounts and added content advisories.

Some hashtags are banned completely, such as:

  • #thinspo, short for the pro-anorexia phrase “thinspiration”
  • #proana, another pro-anorexia phrase

Still, other potentially problematic tags fall into a gray area and are still allowed. The Instagram app had to witness the issue head-on when researchers examined 2.5 million posts between 2011 and 2014, also analyzing 15 pro-eating disorder hashtags that were banned or moderated. What they found was truly disheartening. For each banned/moderated hashtag, there was an average of 40 spin-off hashtags.

For example:

  • #anorexia, as banned, there were 99 variations of the hashtag, such as- #anorexique or #anoexica
  • #thighgap had variations of #thygap and #thigh gap
  • #bulimia would be transformed into #bulimiah

According to the study, these variations even boasted more comments and more “likes” than the originals. So when the Instagram app tried to shut down the pro-eating disorder exploitation of their forum, users found loop-holes. Spin-off hashtags are also noted to exhibit a higher focus of self-harm related posts.

The Instagram app was trying to make a difference, but the fight evolved with their efforts. It is time to implement new strategies.

Instagram’s #Intervention

Now the Instagram app is putting some of the power to act in the hands of other users. Users can now anonymously flag posts about self-harm or other mental health issues, and Instagram will step in.

But Instagram isn’t militantly and automatically shutting down every post that gets flagged. Instead, the Instagram app is taking a compassionate and proactive approach. Once a picture is flagged, the user who put up the image will see a message offering help:

“Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”

Then, the app will offer to connect them with a helpline, assistance in talking to a friend or getting tips. If Instagram app users search any of those questionable tags, they’ll also be directed to the same support page.


Instagram developed the new tool in dexterity by uniting with a variety of resources, including:

  • National Eating Disorders Association
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

They even reached out to real people who have struggled with eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal thoughts personally to come up with the most effective and compassionate message. Instagram COO Marne Levine said in a recent interview that,

“We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress. At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don’t know how best to reach out,”

“These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder.”

In this writer’s opinion, this is an awesome innovation. This doesn’t attack the individual making the post, but instead offers support and displays concern in a positive light. Not to say there is anything wrong with banning hashtags or other methods of regulating social media. This just seems like it does not isolate the individual as much, and instead shows someone who may be suffering care and kindness. Instead of silencing a cry for help or sweeping it under the rug, it puts a solution on the table.

This kind of intervention by the Instagram app not only tries to protect those who may be susceptible to the negative impact of these images, it also promotes mental health solutions through positive outreach.

Well done Instagram.

Eating disorders and other mental health disorders are often co-occurring with addiction or substance abuse. Understanding dual diagnosis and providing holistic treatment can be very essential for effective and lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, please don’t wait. Call toll-free and find out how to get help.

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Utah Governor Declares Porn a ‘Health Hazard’ and Signs Two Bills

Utah Governor Declares Porn a 'Health Hazard' and Signs Two Bills

Author: Shernide Delva

Back in February, we published an article on how Utah Republican State Senator Todd Weiler declared porn a public health crisis. Weiler came out in protest of pornography citing the destructive, addictive nature of porn. He introduced a legislature to Utah that would allow the state to closely monitor ]pornography usage and reduce child pornography.

Now, the state’s governor is coming out with support for those beliefs. Utah Gov. Gary R. Hubert recently said that porn is a “health hazard” and produces a “sexually toxic environment” for those who view it.  He signed two bills to raise awareness of the issue he feels strongly about:

“Pornography is a public health crisis. Today I signed two bills that will bring its dangers to light. S.C.R. 9 calls for additional research and education so that more individuals and families are aware of the harmful effects of pornography,” said Herbert on the governor’s Facebook page.

Of the two bills, one is technically a resolution that declares porn as an official health hazard to the state of Utah while the other bill proposes a solution. The first bill explains the reason why porn is such a huge problem. It lists the numerous detrimental effects of porn such as causing the treatment of women as “objects and commodities for the viewer’s use.” The bill continues to state that pornography “equates violence toward women and children with sex and pain with pleasure, which increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography.”

Still, the bill does not list any punishing powers. It does not explicitly ban pornography in the state, nor does it contain any consequences for those caught viewing pornography.

Jon Cox, the spokesperson for the Republican governor, explained the bill Monday stating the point of the bill is to declare a resolution to raise awareness and education of the dangers of porn:

“We want Utah youths to understand the addictive habits” of porn that are “harmful to our society,he said.

The second bill introduced does list some consequences for more specific porn usage, such as viewing child pornography. The second bill requires technicians who find child pornography during their work to report it to law enforcement. Any technician who fails to report findings of child pornography would face a class B misdemeanor.

Claims of Addiction

Porn addiction has been, and continues to be, a controversial manner. Some believe pornography has a place in society while others believe it is harmful. Some also believe pornography can be addictive while others find there is nothing addictive about it. Just like any addiction, some people are affected more by an action or behavior than others are.

Dawn Hawkins is the executive director of National Center on Sexual Exploitation in Washington, had spoken in the past how detrimental she feels porn can be.

“Pornography encourages viewers to view their sexual partners in a dehumanized way, and it increases the acceptance and enjoyment of sexual violence and harmful beliefs about women, sex, and rape.”

Pornography continues to be an interesting conversation had throughout the entire country. An interesting twist to the legislation is that in 2009, Utah was determined by Harvard Business School to have the highest pornography sales per capita than any other state in the United States.

Pornography exists, and people are watching it. That is a fact. Whether or not pornography should be banned or how addictive it can be remains a conversation to be had repetitively. However, as with any addiction, people respond differently. If you feel you have a problem, get help. Do not feel ashamed. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Big Pharma Hiding Anti-Depressants Relation to Suicide Epidemic?

Is Big Pharma Hiding Fact that Anti-Depressants Are Related to Rising Suicide Rates?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

While the nation seems to have recognized the looming threat of an opiate epidemic that has been claiming lives in record numbers in every state, others also believe there is another epidemic that exists in our country that sits insidiously in the shadows of other issues, getting worse and worse as time runs out for more and more people. This epidemic is one that isn’t as easy to see in action because its symptoms are much more personal and subliminal than the warning signs and effects of drug abuse, but it is an epidemic that is just as crippling and perhaps even scarier because it is so much harder to see it coming. However experts insist the United States is also in the grips of a suicide epidemic.

As a suicide survivor and someone with a history of prescription drug abuse, I can say this story was significantly disturbing considering all the elements involved. Don’t get me wrong, I see the positive impact some people experience with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. One might say I would be a likely candidate for either, but my suspicion was definitely spiked when I read some of the information in this report.

The assessment of a rising suicide epidemic comes in aggregation with various other intense and terrifying reports- including the underreporting of suicide rates related to antidepressant use by the Big Pharma companies responsible, and an increase in overdose of anti-anxiety medications.

Now an analysis of recent reviews on common antidepressants is leading us to ask- is Big Pharma hiding that anti-depressants are related to these rising suicide rates?

The Global Suicide Scale

The issue is not only confined to the United States. According to the World Health Organization in 2015 suicide is now the 3rd leading cause of death, representing a 60% increase worldwide over the past 45 years!

A recent study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2015 found that British males between the ages of 45 and 49 had a drastic increase of 40% in suicide rates in just 7 years. In retired males, or pensioners, the increase was 10%.

One report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in shows statistics that found an estimated 9.3 million adults in the United States (3.9% of the adult population) reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year.

Shocking Statistics

The Nordic Cochrane Center carried out a review later analyzed by University College London (UCL). Of most of the medications the primary statistics that were found to be most shocking were those for:

  • Selective serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

These antidepressants, according to the review, actually double the rate of suicide and aggressive behavior for adolescents and young people under the age of 18. But more troubling than the fact these medications intended to treat depression actually increased risks of harmful side-effects was the fact that the review determined there was “serious underestimation of the harms” by the Big Pharma companies. This leads the authors of the study to infer that older adults are likely to also experience elevated risk of suicide than the makers will admit.

  • The report states that more than half of the suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts had been misreported in case studies as “emotional instability” or “worsening of depression.”
  • In a summary by Big Pharma company Eli Lilly suicidal attempts were missing in 90% of the cases

In the last two decades deaths by overdose of anti-anxiety drugs have quadrupled, which coincides with a tripling rate of these drugs being prescribes. So as the drugs were being distributed at magnified amounts, more people were simultaneously dying due to overdosing on them.

Conclusions on Corruption

Dr. Tarang Sharma of the Nordic Cochrane Center stated in the research that,

The analysis suggests that clinical study reports, on which decisions about market authorization are based, are likely to underestimate the extent of drug-related harms.”

Many experts involved in this review and the proceeding analysis have said they find it troubling that one could conclude more and more patients are being prescribed these medications and taking them in increasingly hazardous doses over time, but no one in Big Pharma seems to see there is an issue with how they report their product studies.

So even if the Big Pharma companies behind the antidepressants aren’t aware if their drugs are responsible for suicide rates rising, shouldn’t they be paying closer attention to how they examine these products?

While it is true there is no clear cut reason for why suicide rates all over the world are rising at such a tragic and terrifying rate, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication don’t seem to be making it any better when you take a closer look at the records. Yet Big Pharma continues to turn a serious profit while avoiding any blame in the cause of these deaths and covering up any connection with catch-phrases like “emotional instability” instead of giving their potentially damaging drugs an honest appraisal.

Depression, thoughts of suicide, and anxiety are all medical conditions that need attention and treatment. Too often powerful prescription drugs are seen as the only solution, which can evolve into substance abuse and addiction. Depression also can come hand in hand with alcohol use disorder or drug addiction, and all these point to increased rates of suicide. There is a way out, even when we don’t see any hope. If you or someone you love is struggling please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help, you are not alone.

Can Your Date of Birth Determine Your Risk of Depression?

Can Your Date of Birth Determine Your Risk of Depression?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Hey… what’s your sign?

Oh really… so you’re one of those people.

Has this pick-up line concerning your astrological sign ever really worked? Like in real life?

Honestly, how many times have we associated our mentality with our birthday and/or the month we were born, and how often has it been used to assess who we are as a person?

The general idea behind what has spawned a school of belief over thousands of years has been that people can decipher the kind of personality you have based on the calendar and the stars. Civilizations over thousands of years in various cultures have developed elaborate systems for predicting terrestrial events from celestial observations, with commonly utilized concepts found in the modern day horoscopes which mean to explain aspects of personality and predict future events based on the positions of the sun, moon, and other celestial objects at the time a person is born.

Researchers have stated they’ve long been aware horoscopes don’t actually correlate with behavior. Back in 1985 a key study was published in the prestigious journal Nature where scientists found that predictions based on astrology were no better than chance.

So even though I’m a cancer, I don’t necessarily have to be a reserved and emotionally amplified person who values friendship and… okay, never mind… anyway…

What I’m getting at is, for so long there has been a school of thought that your date (or month) of birth could explain everything about your emotional and mental health, along with telling your fortune. The strange thing is, while maybe seeing the future isn’t so much a fact, some statistics actually support the indication that your birthday may tell more about your mental health, such as your risk of depression or even suicide, than you think.

Date of Birth and Mental Health

There was a group of researchers at Queen Mary University in London back in 2012 who released a study where they had investigated whether the risk of several mental health disorders could be increased depending on one’s birth month, including:

The study examined more than 29 million people from England’s general population, 58,000 of whom were already diagnosed with one of these three conditions, and what they found was actually a bit surprising.

  • Winter babies were at the greatest risk for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
  • January being the most common birth month for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia had significant lows for people born in July
  • Bipolar disorder had significant lows for people born in August and September
  • Spring babies appeared to be at greatest risk for depression, with an almost significant peak in May
  • People born in November were significantly less likely to experience depression

While this may not be an exact science, still the concept is an intriguing one, especially considering how many people out there really do follow their astrological profiles to evaluate their own behaviors.

Date of Birth and Suicide

Suicide is a tragic and far too common extension of mental illness, and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an estimated 90% of individuals who commit suicide suffer from mental illness.

So of course, when putting the pieces together researchers suggest that suicidal behavior may also be linked to birth month.

Another British research team examined the data from between 1970 and 2001 on nearly 27,000 suicides and found evidence that suggested this may also be a very real pattern. The data they collected showed the greatest risk of suicide came with individuals born in:

  • April
  • May
  • June

The risk of suicide for these individuals was actually 17% higher than people whose birthdays fell in the autumn or winter, which correlates with the first study which stated Spring babies had the highest rates of depression.

Theories of Seasons

Scientists aren’t exactly sure why some birth months run parallel to greater incidences of mental health disorders than others, but there are a few interesting theories.

  1. Biological Clock

One theory is that the birth month influences our biological clock, because our ability to regulate our biological clock is strongly connected to our mood.

Scientists in a 2010 study found that mice born in the winter were less able to adapt to a summer light cycle than mice born in other seasons. The researchers speculated that difficulties with these biological rhythms could increase the risk of mental health disorders in humans born in the winter.

  1. Vitamin D

Then there is Vitamin D, which is produced when our bodies are exposed to sunlight, and recent research has uncovered lower levels of vitamin D could feasibly impact the nervous system in the developing brain, potentially explaining higher rates of mental illnesses for people born in the cold winter or the wet spring.

There was another study that found people with the lowest levels of vitamin D at birth were more likely than others to develop schizophrenia later in life.

  1. Pregnancy

Sickness or even seasonal changes in the mother’s diet during gestation may be enough to cause issues down the line according to some theories.

A mother may be more likely to have the flu in the winter, and some ask if this could potentially influence the developing baby?

Different seasons also contain different allergens that could stress the mother’s system and shift fetal development.

All Theoretical

The important thing to remember right now is this is all theoretical. The effects found in these research studies are relatively small and by no means the rule as of yet. Surely as neuroscience grows and develops, more risk factors will be identified and more solutions created to confront the possible outcomes of these concepts, but for now it is all just ideas and studies.

In the meantime, perhaps we should meditate on the delicacy and sensitivity of our minds, and try to be more aware of how the things we subject ourselves to can have profound impacts on our mental health. If something so simple as being born in the spring could possibly shift your mental health, what do you think the risky behaviors and habit you adopt can do?

Depression often comes hand in hand with other destructive behaviors, and too often people are paralyzed by drug addiction and depression. Thankfully dual diagnosis treatment is out there, and Palm Partners takes pride in an outstanding dual diagnosis program. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125  

Send Silence Packing Exhibit Raising Suicide Awareness on Campus

Send Silence Packing Exhibit Raising Suicide Awareness on Campus

Author: Justin Mckibben

Art is meant to inspire, to make people ask a question and look inside themselves for their own version of the answers, to spark conversations that will bring focus to a concept or idea. I once heard that all art is political and all artists have something to say. In this case I guess the politics would be particularly for fighting the spread of suicide and raising awareness about the issue of mental health that is prominent in America.

So with an exhibit, it may seem less of art than portraits or paintings, but the Send Silence Packing is a traveling public education exhibit that has a performance art vibe, going all over the country with 1,100 backpacks that represent the 1,100 college students who annually die by suicide placed all over college campuses.

Active Minds for Students and Suicide

Active Minds Inc. is a national nonprofit organization was established in 2003 by Alison Malmon after her brother Brian died by suicide when he was a senior in college. Ever since it was unveiled in 2008 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. over 300,000 people in 75 communities all over the United States have experienced the Send Silence Packing campaign.

Send Silence Packing is a program developed by Active Minds Inc., working with a very vital mission; to engage students in discussions about mental health and mental illness.

Something that gave me the chills when first hearing about this story is that the 1,100 backpacks used in this exhibit were actually donated by the families and friends of the deceased college students, along with stories and photos of the loved ones they lost to suicide.

Just take a moment and imagine that on the campus near you, if you haven’t already witnessed one of these demonstrations.

If the sight of 1,100 backpacks that used to be worn by young people like you or me scattered over a campus like abandoned pieces of a life snuffed out too soon does make your heart break just a little bit then I don’t know what will.

Telling the Students’ Stories

Waking people up to the reality behind this message has a lot to do with spreading the stories of each student who lost their fight and succumbed to suicide across the country. Those involved with the exhibit feel telling these stories helps to humanize the dejected statistics.

A display like this can make it a very real tragedy to those who have not experienced it, making the facts of suicide more tangible in the lives of those who aren’t aware of how wide-spread it is. Facts like:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death of college students
  • 44% of college students report being so depressed in the past year that it was difficult to function
  • Tragically 2/3 of those who need help do not get it

Telling the stories of these student seeks to eliminate the stigma of suicide and mental illness by making it more personal, and showing others the scope of the issue.

The exhibit thus seeks to increase awareness so that students are aware of the prevalence and do not suffer in silence, and to provide information and resources for students in need of assistance.

The University of Maine and local community are invited to experience Send Silence Packing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 2.

At Send Silence Packing, members of Active Minds will have handouts about mental health, suicide prevention and where people can seek help.

12 Northeast campuses have so far been selected to be a part of the Send Silence Packing spring 2015 tour. Still left on the list of upcoming dates includes:

  • California State University, Sacramento- October 5th
  • Fresno City College- October 8th
  • University of California, Santa Barbara- October 12th
  • San Jacinto College- October 14th
  • University of California, Riverside- October 15th

Call it what you will; performance installment art, a public demonstration, educational awareness exhibit… this is a powerful statement, and those who put it together definitely have something to say. In America mental health disorders are not as accepted or understood as they are common occurrences in our society. In college students fall victim to a new world of pressures and circumstances, including substance abuse which often correlates with mental health disorders. Messages like this are the kind of art that can rewire the minds of millions at a glance, and the toll mental illness takes on the world should be met with just such a powerful force.

Treatment for mental health disorders and addiction is not always the easiest thing to seek out, but as we as a nation continue to evolve the conversation and raise awareness more people are finding out about the amazing pathways to a life in recovery that are out there. We urge you to seek yours. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


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