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This article was published on October 8, 2021

Facebook’s ‘mental health tools’ reek of half-assing

Symbolic much?

Facebook’s ‘mental health tools’ reek of half-assing Image by: Pixabay
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

Facebook announced a bunch of tools and resources to spread awareness about mental health last night.

This move comes ahead of Mental Health Day on October 10. But it also comes along with the recent allegations against the company about ignoring the mental health impact of Instagram’s algorithms on teens.

The firm said that it has worked with experts on mental health all around the world to build these tools. Here’s what the company has launched:

  • A new emotional health hub with resources related to different aspects of mental health including tips and links to organizations working in specific areas. It’s not clear how you’ll come across this page unless you specifically search for it.
  • Facebook has also launched specific resource pages for Black, Asian, Latinx, and Native American communities. However, most of the content on those pages is generic rather than community-specific.
  • The company has linked to a few mental-health-related chatbots in the blog post, including WHO’s mental health chatbot on WhatsApp and a loneliness advice chatbot developed by the UK’s Connection Coalition. I’m not sure if someone who hasn’t read FB’s blogpost or this post will come across these bots when they need help.
  • The company also pointed out that they have recently launched a suicide prevention hub
  • Some links to specific communities and groups that help each other with mental health issues. Good on those people.
  • The company didn’t forget to point out that it hosts articles about mental health on its newly launched platform for independent writers called Bulletin. One more Facebook platform I need to look out for?
  • Facebook Watch is launching a series called Peace of Mind with Taraji hosted by actress Taraji P. Henson, where she talks with different people in Black culture about mental health. 
  • Facebook pointed out that under the company’s “VR for Good” initiative, a free experience named Goliath: Playing with Reality teaches you about schizophrenia on Oculus. Why do I need to own a VR headset to learn about mental health again?

This new announcement from Facebook screams “Look at us, we’re doing so much for mental health.” It’s strange that for a company that has billions of users outside the US, there’s little mentioned about country-specific resources. In a blog post packed with information, there’s also a lack of resources focused on religious minorities and LGBTQ+ groups.

With stigmas and struggles related to mental health, Facebook is asking people to know about these resources off the top of their heads. A lot of these pages and tools are results of work done by people not working at the company. They’re simply using Facebook’s platforms to host them, and the company can’t take credit for that.

Mental health is a very complex subject and while it’s important to spread awareness about it, it has to be more inclusive and accessible.

Plus, Facebook has hardly talked about how its different platforms and algorithms have impacted the mental health of its users. Maybe it’s time for some introspection, Zuck?

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