By Kalhan Rosenblatt
Many of the TikTok videos using the hashtag begin the same way.
Haunting chords play from Canadian singer-songwriter Patrick Watson’s “Je te laisserai des mots,” which roughly translates from French to “I’ll leave you notes.” On the screen, text appears stating some version of, “It’s national suicide prevention month, so here’s what I would’ve missed if I had been successful.”
What comes next varies. Sometimes, the user makes jokes about hardships. But others are sincere, flashing quick images of smiles at weddings, prenatal ultrasounds, late nights out with friends, the first kiss of a new love, and more.
The videos, which use the #suicidepreventionmonth hashtag, coincided with Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which takes place every September.
The trend picked up just as TikTok announced last week that it would be implementing new resources for those who were struggling with suicidal ideations. The new tools include: An in-app resource list of crisis hotlines around the world to help users in every region; information on how to engage safely with someone who may be in crisis; resources, including the Crisis Text Line helpline, whenever someone searches for a term such as #suicide.
Some mental health experts told NBC News the added resources are a step in the right direction, while others believe links and disclaimers can only go so far in helping people.
Regardless, the consensus among those interviewed is that the decision to make such changes to the app signals a positive shift in how social media platforms are handling the mental health of their users, particularly those who are younger.
“Social media platforms have become a space for our kids and marginalized adolescents … to really express themselves, to identify and relate to one another,” said Phyllis Alongi, the former clinical director for the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, who now works in private practice. “And we don’t want it to be unbalanced. We want to minimize risk and maximize resources.”
Mental health-related videos on TikTok remain popular
TikTok’s decision to add resources is in line with the communities of users who have turned to the platform to embrace conversations around mental health.
While not a new category of video by any means, mental health and wellness videos became commonplace on the platform during the pandemic, as people grappled with loneliness and other hardships.
The #MentalHealth hashtag has been viewed more than 16.4 billion times on the app and the #MentalHealthMatters hashtag has been viewed more than 13.5 billion times. Even the misspelled #mentalheath hashtag has been viewed more than a billion times.
TikTok says it’s proud to be a space for young people to have honest and open discussions about their mental well-being, but said that it wants to ensure its platform is hosting these communities safely.