What is ‘sadfishing’?

You may have heard the term ‘sadfishing’ in the media this week and wondered what it was. This concerning trend is not new, but it does serve as an indicator for the state of young people’s wellbeing online and their attempts to cope.

The term refers to the act of posting about a personal problem online to gain support or understanding from followers in the form of likes and comments. While there will be some cases where young people will persistently share exaggerated posts to gain sympathy, we need to be cautious with dismissing these behaviours as ‘attention seeking’.

For example, Kendall Jenner recently shared a post about how ‘suffering from acne was debilitating’ for her which was met with both sympathy and controversy. 

It’s important that young people are able to talk about how they feel, and some will seek support online from close friends. However, oversharing publicly could be counterproductive for some young people and could make them feel even more vulnerable and overexposed.

If a child in your care engages in so-called “sadfishing” it’s an indication that you need to check in with them and offer some support.

Use open ended questions to start a conversation with a young person in your care:

● “I’ve noticed you have been sharing online about how you’re feeling- maybe you could tell me what’s been going on?”
● “It can be hard to talk about how we’re feeling- I want to help and listen to what’s been going on I won’t shout or judge you.”
● “I saw the post that you shared; I’m wondering what made you share that?”

Use messages of reassurance and highlight other supports:

● “That sounds like a lot to have to handle by yourself, how have you been coping?”
● “I want you to know that I am always here for you, you can come talk to me about anything. If you didn’t feel comfortable talking to me about something, who else would you feel comfortable talking to?”
● “It’s normal to sometimes feel like you’re sad or lonely, it’s very brave of you to talk to me you should be proud of yourself”

If a young person struggles to engage:

● We’ve been talking for a while and it doesn’t seem like you are able to say very much about what’s going on for you- is there a reason for this?
● “Sometimes it’s hard to talk about how we’re feeling, do you want to have a think about how you’re feeling, and we can talk in a few hours?”
● “Sometimes it can be hard to put our emotions into words, if your feelings were a colour/emoji which would they be?”

Information Advice and Guidance

Support for Young People:

Young Minds (Information and Advice)
Young Minds (Crisis Messenger)

Support for Parents:

Family Lives
Young Minds (Parents Helpline)

Support for Teachers:

NSPCC Child Protection Helpline
Mental Health Foundation (Mental Health Guide for Teachers)

If you have concerns about the immediate safety and wellbeing of a child contact the police using 999 (emergency number).

For more practical advice check out our video below