Mental health and social media: how to protect yourself from cyber abuse

What to do?

What if you should you have the misfortune to become a victim? Experts advise taking screenshots of the cyber bullying so that you have proof it is happening.

Log all posts and be sure to report all abuse to the relevant social media networks by clicking on the 'report abuse' button.

You should also block the person who is harassing you. If the bullying seems to cross the line from harassment to criminal intent, then it is time to contact law enforcement. If violence is threatened or any sexually explicit material is received, or when there is stalking or an invasion of an individual's privacy, then the cyber bully has committed a crime and the proper authorities should investigate it.

Sending abuse by email or posting it on an online forum can be harassment and, if this has happened, make a complaint to the police who can trace IP address.

Most of all, talk to someone. Don't be embarrassed or feel it's 'your fault'. Writing a diary of your feelings can help - if left unaddressed, the bullying continues and your wellbeing worsens.

Cyber-crime can destroy self-esteem - and impact horrendously on our day-to-day lives even stopping the victim leading a normal life, with some victims afraid to leave their home.

Increasingly, a number of organisations are helping victims of cyber-crime. The government-funded Revenge Porn Helpline, launched in 2015, is just one of the organisations founded to fight back against the trend.

In the last year, it received almost 5,000 calls from victims. A spokesperson for the Helpline explains: 'Our online safety helpline works closely with the internet industry - Google, Facebook and Twitter - to resolve online safety issues­ and to provide a rapid response in taking down content.

'By doing this, it empowers victims who can then regain control. Our team works with them, making them aware of their legal rights, coaching them on what to expect, helping with access to free legal advice and signposting victims directly to any relevant support organisations.'

As this era of burgeoning communication opportunities in a virtual world gathers pace, there is an unfortunate flipside. Abuse online is not going to disappear anytime soon - but, by talking about it, sharing good practice and having faith in the authorities to be proactive against the bullies, we should all be able to enjoy a healthy relationship with the internet and the positive opportunities it has to offer.

References:

1. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/29/self-harm-ptsd-and-mental-illness-soaring-among-young-women-in-england-survey

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