Cyber harassment and mental health

Published: July 20, 2017

KARACHI: Cyber harassment in the era of internet and social media platforms has been on the rise. Pakistanis too haven’t been spared from this menace of trolls and bullies, who hide behind their computer screens and don’t leave an opportunity to harass someone through their keyboards.

Adding to this misery, a recent report published by the Digital Rights Foundation’s (DRF) Cyber Harassment Helpline, has reported that cyber harassment can lead to psychological disorder like depression, anxiety, chronic stress and suicidal thoughts if proper assistance is not provided. Not surprisingly, according to the findings of the report, the most widely reported platform of harassment is Facabook.

The findings of this report help direct the conversation to not only establishing cyber harassment laws or cells to help internet users but also the need to rehabilitate victims through cognitive behavioural therapy or other necessary means. Achieving this, however, will be quite problematic.

In a country that already snubs mental health, it’s highly likely that people would pay much attention to the findings of the report. More often than not, when people experience cyber harassment and choose to speak to their families or friends about it they are advised to ‘ignore’ their harasser or block them off their social media platforms. In extreme cases, some are asked to deactivate their social media accounts. At the end of the day, people are asked to take the onus of avoiding harassment upon themselves.

As important as it is for the DGR to have a pragmatic approach to deal with cyber harassment and its after effects, it’s equally important to educate people on mental health. Unless and until dialogues on mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are publicly held there is little room for improvement.

Sabika Nazish

Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2017.

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