The Week That Was: Minding your mental health

  • TECH
  • Monday, 29 Jul 2019

Pinterest wants to help users feel better with the introduction of emotional well-being activities on its app. — Pinterest

As we hurtle forward into a digital future, it’s even more crucial that those in despair or with suicidal thoughts are not left out.

According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2017 released last year, one out of five Malaysian adolescents is depressed, two out of five experienced anxiety, while 11.2% experienced “suicidal ideation” and 10.1% had attempted suicide – all issues that the Befrienders KL helpline has been working to address since 1970.

With that in mind, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) announced that those in need of emotional support can reach out to the Befrienders hotline at 03-7956 8145/8144 for assistance at no cost starting from next month.

It’s working with eight telcos – Celcom Axiata, Maxis, Digi Telecommunications, Telekom Malaysia, Time, U Mobile, Webe Digital, and YTL Communications – to waive the charges for calls from their networks.

MCMC chairman Al-Ishsal Ishak described suicidal symptoms as a “tragedy in every society”, adding that it takes the collective effort of various stakeholders, including the government and industry players to address the issue.

“Among the key steps that need to be taken is to eliminate the stigma in the community against mental illness and suicidal symptoms through assistance such as enabling access to Befrienders, which is now free for those who need advice, counseling and emotional support,” he said in a press statement.

Befrienders is a non-profit organisation that provides emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He also hopes to use social media and the latest technology to identify those most at risk.

And social media could prove to be more useful than that. Pinterest has announced that it is introducing a number of emotional well-being activities in the United States which it plans to roll out in other countries as well.

Meant for those feeling stressed, anxious or sad, the activities include breathing and self-compassion exercises like “recognising your strengths” and “practising gratitude”.

The activities were created in collaboration with Brainstorm, the Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation with additional guidance from Vibrant Emotional Health and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

In a statement, Pinterest product manager Annie Ta said that Pinterest is for discovering ideas and being inspired, “but we know that life isn’t always so inspiring, and things on the Internet aren’t either”.

However, social media is not without drawbacks – Facebook made the news for all the wrong reasons last week.

According to a Reuters report, the social network agreed to pay a whopping US$5bil (RM20.6bil) fine as settlement to a probe by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for a number of privacy violations.

The FTC initiated the probe in 2012 when Facebook was alleged to have inappropriately shared information on 87 million users with now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook will also be required to form an independent board to oversee the privacy of its users. On top of that, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be asked to personally certify that his company is doing all that’s needed to protect user privacy.

Facebook also came under fire when The Verge reported that a design flaw in the company’s Messenger Kids app allowed its young users to enter into group chats with strangers.

The app is designed to block children from chatting with contacts who have not been pre-approved by a child’s parents but failed to do so due to the complexity of managing permissions for multiple users.

According to the Verge, Facebook has been quietly alerting its users and shutting down the group chats but made no announcement about it.

The Verge stated that the app is designed for users under the age of 13 and is subject to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) so the design flaw could be a legally sensitive issue for Facebook.

The group chat feature was first introduced in 2017.

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