Pinterest rolls out new tool aimed at helping users with anxiety, stress

The social media giant teamed up with researchers from the Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation to develop short digital exercises for stress.
By Laura Lovett
Share

Pinterest is often a platform synonymous with wedding boards, apartment designs and general inspirational quotes. But often users are looking for answers or support in regard to more serious questions. 

Recently, the social media giant teamed up with researchers from Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation to create a tool aimed at giving users more resources. 

“Pinterest saw a rise in users searching for terms like 'stress' and 'anxiety' and realized that people were coming to their platform expressing some form of emotional distress,” Dr. Nina Vasan, founder and director of Brainstorm, The Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation, told MobiHealthNews. “Right now, what happens when users search for terms like that is they get inspirational quotes or pictures. Pinterest wanted to think about what more they could offer their users that would actually help them feel better. That's how the platform came together — recognizing that there are so many people expressing that they need help.”

So, the organization decided that it wanted to go beyond this and provide more support for its users. 

“Pinterest's data showed that their users were aware of their need for help and that they were asking for it,” Vasan said. “So we had the opportunity to create something that they could easily access, for free, to help with their emotional health in the moment.”

Pinterest’s team of engineers and designers put its head together with researchers from Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation. 

“We started with the science: which practices have the most robust scientific evidence to work in improving mood and decreasing stress, work for a wide range of people on Pinterest and have zero risk of harm if done independently? For example, we chose gratitude and mindfulness because they have buckets of research showing they improve mood, stress and resilience, and even increase work productivity and lifespan,” Vasan wrote in a follow-up email. “The second critical component was to design in a way that further promotes good emotional health. We’ve incorporated scientific evidence into the design of everything from the length of time to tiny details like the colors and images presented.”

In the end, the pair came up with 12 evidence-based exercises. The tools were based on cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and behavioral activation. The exercises are short, lasting about one to two minutes. 

When a user types in a search with a trigger word, such as stress, these exercises will pop up. Initially, the program will be rolled out in English across the U.S. and will be free to users. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Getting mental health services to everyone who needs them comes with a number of obstacles. 

“This allows us to literally meet people where they are,” Vasan said. “They aren’t in the doctor’s office, they aren't coming to a healthcare system — they are online. I think a lot about big communities of where people are. Pinterest, that is 300 million people who are all online on this platform. So if we could take what we know from clinical work and go deliver it to them, meet them where they are online, it offers a potential that we aren’t able to do in healthcare.”

THE LARGER TREND

Increasingly, the social media industry is looking into the health space. For example, during Facebook’s F8 conference in Maythe social media platform announced that it had created a “Health Support” tool that will help users find groups to fit their health concerns and needs. 

Additionally, last year Facebook rolled out a new initiative that redirected users looking to purchase opioids to information about a federal crisis helpline.