Back in February, Snapchat announced a new feature called Here For You designed to help people in crisis or struggling with their mental health to get access to safety resources. While the feature was initially intended to slowly roll out over the course of a few months and eventually be available to all users by April, the company is instead pushing the feature out sooner than expected to help those dealing with anxiety and stress-related to the coronavirus pandemic. All Snapchat users should be able to access Here For You starting next week, according to a report from Axios.
The original intent of Here For You was to connect users to experts and resources that can help them navigate feelings of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Those resources will still be available when the feature arrives next week, but Snapchat is also ramping up Here For You to help people access essential information about coronavirus. The feature will have a section dedicated entirely to the pandemic, with the information provided from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the UK's National Health Service (NHS). Snapchat is promising more content from "other partners who are creating content on anxiety specifically related to coronavirus.”
Beyond the coronavirus-specific content, Here For You will also serve to connect users to local resources that they may be able to take advantage of to deal with mental health issues. Snap has said that it will direct users to the Crisis Text Line when they need someone to talk to. The feature will show up when users search for relevant terms in the app’s search bar, be it “anxiety,” “suicide,” or “coronavirus.”
“Here For You was informed by studies that show that connecting with friends, whether in person or online is often the best defense against feelings of loneliness and anxiety,” a spokesperson for Snap told The Verge. “We also know that Snapchatters are deeply interested in understanding these issues, and how they can support friends who are struggling with them.”
Snapchat's user base runs young. The company claims that it reaches 75 percent of 13- to 34-year-olds and 90 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds. That makes Snapchat uniquely positioned to provide access to mental health services to those who are most likely to be dealing with bullying and other challenges. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly half of young adults do not receive needed mental health services. Snapchat's Here For You feature isn't a substitute for mental health treatment, but it can point vulnerable populations to the resources that are available to them. That's a good place to start.