Mental health awareness is an essential and challenging topic to talk about in moderation. Being in a good mental state has countless benefits. Not only are you more alert, and subsequently feel better, but generally you are better equipped to deal with the stresses of everyday life. Mental health is an integral part of our health; there is no health without mental health.
Before we discuss what to consider when introducing mental health channels to a community, it is important to understand the difference between mental health and a mental illness, and to be aware of the realities of what these terms entail.
Mental health and mental illness are strongly intertwined, but very different. People with good mental health can develop a mental illness, while those with no mental illness can have poor mental health. Mental health reflects our emotional, physiological, and social well-being. Though the topic of mental health is still quite taboo to talk about in certain circles, there is help available for those who wish to seek it. Mental health is a crucial aspect of a person’s existence as it affects our actions, emotions, and thoughts. A healthy mental state enhances effectiveness and productivity in work, education, and interpersonal relationships.
A mental illness is a disorder of the mind that affects not just our thinking but also our energy, mood, and occasionally our conduct or behavior. Such a diagnosis may make it difficult to cope with the many obligations of life. Common mental illness diagnoses are anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific types of fears. There are also mood disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. An excellent guide for identifying mental health challenges and pathways to care can be found here.
Being informed and aware about mental health issues is a great start when you’re considering how it may affect or apply to your community and team. As an illness can manifest in a variety of different ways, it is vital to be ready and have clear guidelines on these complex topics when dealing with online communities both for your staff internally and for your community externally. An often overlooked result of community moderation is how it can affect the mental health of your team. Moderator burnout stems from situations that harm your team’s mental health, and understanding the signs and how to deal with it are essential in building a strong online community led by a moderation team that can act as a strong support system not only to your community, but to each other.
There is a lot to consider when discussing if you want to add a channel that addresses and is dedicated to talking about topics that deal with mental health within your Discord server. Firstly, you have to determine whether or not your community needs a mental health discussion channel or thread. Consider whether or not your team has seen much talk about mental health-related content in your community and whether such conversations have remained respectful even without your team’s active intervention. If these conversations have devolved into arguments or negativity in your community, maybe re-evaluate if you feel this type of channel will benefit those in your server and really think about if you can find a way or have enough resources to guarantee that it remains a safe space for all users.
And easy way to contemplate whether or not a mental health channel would fit into your server is by looking at the general topic of your server. If your Discord server is more focused on gaming, it may not make sense to allow something that drastically differs from your server’s purpose. Contrarily, a server focusing on community building might be a safer space for a mental health channel. Ultimately, it’s very subjective and all about listening to not just the needs of your community but the tone of your server.
A lot goes into developing an excellent community and introducing a mental health channel is not easy as you have to consider how to best moderate it. This includes how you’ll be utilizing auto moderation and text filters in the channel as accidental flags in highly emotional situations can be more harmful than helpful. If you do decide to create a mental health channel or thread, it is important to be aware of all possible situations and to be flexible and prepared for unexpected scenarios.
Understanding that some moderators aren’t comfortable in these situations is important and if you decide to allow such a channel on your server, you need to be able to vet your moderators and future helpers. As moderators aren’t mental health professionals, they shouldn’t be treated as such and should also be presented with the option to opt out of spaces such as this. Therefore, it is vitally important that you establish clear internal guidelines and procedures to set expectations for the channel at a manageable level.
Discussing mental health in a positive way can be challenging as it is a sensitive topic with a variety of experiences attached to it. However, there are some ways to make this an easier experience from a moderation standpoint, the most important of which is having clear server rules and moderator guidelines for how to act when these discussions are taking place and having clear escalation protocols for if things go south. Talking with your moderators about mental health and challenging times in life as well as facilitating breaks for them demonstrates that you care about their well-being. This is an integral part of establishing a healthy environment for your moderators and solid internal relationships.
The creation of specific mental health-related guidelines ensure that users remain respectful of each other and that conversations are within the designated guidelines of your community.
Some suggestions for creating these guidelines include:
Escalation protocols are another important foundation for when mental health discussions take place. Some ideas to consider when implementing them:
Moderation of mental health channels can be a touchy subject. On one hand, moderators should be firm in removing harassers and users who are disrespecting others. On the other hand, moderators should try their best not to over-moderate. There must be a balance to ensure that these channels that have very sensitive subject matters within them are moderated with care. Some ways to do this are:
There are an incredible amount of resources available for mental health support–everything from emergency phone numbers to suicide hotlines and LGBTQ+ helplines. The Find a Helpline resource consists of a list of global helplines and hotlines. We also recommend looking at the TWLOHA resource, which is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with their mental health.
Discord has also partnered with Crisis Text Line, a non-profit that provides text-based volunteer support for people in crisis. You can learn more about our integration and partnership and how to use it on Discord here.
Some more examples of support sites include:
*Unless you are using the channel description for verification instructions rather than an automatic greeter message.
If you want to use the remove unverified role method, you will need a bot that can automatically assign a role to a user when they join.
Once you decide whether you want to add or remove a role, you need to decide how you want that action to take place. Generally, this is done by typing a bot command in a channel, typing a bot command in a DM, or clicking on a reaction. The differences between these methods are shown below.
In order to use the command in channel method, you will need to instruct your users to remove the Unverified role or to add the Verified role to themselves.
Not all communities are prepared to host a mental health channel or thread, and there is a lot to consider before adding one to your server. While allowing talk about mental health can be incredibly beneficial, it is just as important to realize that moderators aren’t professionals and should not be put in those positions if they aren’t comfortable with it. That’s why we advise that you carefully consider your current environment, your community’s purpose, and implications that might occur if you choose to add one.
Whatever you decide is best for your community, we believe that education is key. It may be helpful to think about adding a channel or post that gives people access to professional support lines, such as FindaHelpline and the TWLOHA resource, as well as other resources laid out in this article. Generally, facilitating a healthy discussion around important topics of any kind is essential in helping to develop stronger communities online. Make sure that your community is a safe space for everyone that chooses to call it home!
Markdown is also supported in an embed. Here is an image to showcase an example of these properties:
Example image to showcase the elements of an embed
An important thing to note is that embeds also have their limitations, which are set by the API. Here are some of the most important ones you need to know:
An important thing to note is that embeds also have their limitations, which are set by the API. Here are some of the most important ones you need to know:
If you feel like experimenting even further you should take a look at the full list of limitations provided by Discord here.
It’s very important to keep in mind that when you are writing an embed, it should be in JSON format. Some bots even provide an embed visualizer within their dashboards. You can also use this embed visualizer tool which provides visualization for bot and webhook embeds.
Even though this comparison is important for better understanding of both bots and webhooks, it does not mean you should limit yourself to only picking one or the other. Sometimes, bots and webhooks work their best when working together. It’s not uncommon for bots to use webhooks for logging purposes or to distinguish notable messages with a custom avatar and name for that message. Both tools are essential for a server to function properly and make for a powerful combination.
*Unconfigurable filters, these will catch all instances of the trigger, regardless of whether they’re spammed or a single instance
**Gaius also offers an additional NSFW filter as well as standard image spam filtering
***YAGPDB offers link verification via google, anything flagged as unsafe can be removed
****Giselle combines Fast Messages and Repeated Text into one filter
Anti-Spam is integral to running a large private server, or a public server. Spam, by definition, is irrelevant or unsolicited messages. This covers a wide base of things on Discord, there are multiple types of spam a user can engage in. The common forms are listed in the table above. The most common forms of spam are also very typical of raids, those being Fast Messages and Repeated Text. The nature of spam can vary greatly but the vast majority of instances involve a user or users sending lots of messages with the same contents with the intent of disrupting your server.
There are subsets of this spam that many anti-spam filters will be able to catch. If any of the following: Mentions, Links, Invites, Emoji, and Newline Text are spammed repeatedly in one message or spammed repeatedly across several messages, they will provoke most Repeated Text and Fast Messages filters appropriately. Subset filters are still a good thing for your anti-spam filter to contain as you may wish to punish more or less harshly depending on the spam. Namely, Emoji and Links may warrant separate punishments. Spamming 10 links in a single message is inherently worse than having 10 emoji in a message.
Anti-spam will only act on these things contextually, usually in an X in Y fashion where if a user sends, for example, 10 links in 5 seconds, they will be punished to some degree. This could be 10 links in one message, or 1 link in 10 messages. In this respect, some anti-spam filters can act simultaneously as Fast Messages and Repeated Text filters.
Sometimes, spam may happen too quickly for a bot to catch up. There are rate limits in place to stop bots from harming servers that can prevent deletion of individual messages if those messages are being sent too quickly. This can often happen in raids. As such, Fast Messages filters should prevent offenders from sending messages; this can be done via a mute, kick or ban. If you want to protect your server from raids, please read on to the Anti-Raid section of this article.
Text filters allow you to control the types of words and/or links that people are allowed to put in your server. Different bots will provide various ways to filter these things, keeping your chat nice and clean.
*Defaults to banning ALL links
**YAGPDB offers link verification via google, anything flagged as unsafe can be removed
***Setting a catch-all filter with carl will prevent link-specific spam detection
A text filter is integral to a well moderated server. It’s strongly, strongly recommended you use a bot that can filter text based on a blacklist. A Banned words filter can catch links and invites provided http:// and https:// are added to the word blacklist (for all links) or specific full site URLs to block individual websites. In addition, discord.gg can be added to a blacklist to block ALL Discord invites.
A Banned Words filter is integral to running a public server, especially if it’s a Partnered, Community or Verified server, as this level of auto moderation is highly recommended for the server to adhere to the additional guidelines attached to it. Before configuring a filter, it’s a good idea to work out what is and isn’t ok to say in your server, regardless of context. For example, racial slurs are generally unacceptable in almost all servers, regardless of context. Banned word filters often won’t account for context, with an explicit blacklist. For this reason, it’s also important a robust filter also contains whitelisting options. For example, if you add the slur ‘nig’ to your filter and someone mentions the country ‘Nigeria’ they could get in trouble for using an otherwise acceptable word.
Filter immunity may also be important to your server, as there may be individuals who need to discuss the use of banned words, namely members of a moderation team. There may also be channels that allow the usage of otherwise banned words. For example, a serious channel dedicated to discussion of real world issues may require discussions about slurs or other demeaning language, in this exception channel based Immunity is integral to allowing those conversations.
Link filtering is important to servers where sharing links in ‘general’ chats isn’t allowed, or where there are specific channels for sharing such things. This can allow a server to remove links with an appropriate reprimand without treating a transgression with the same severity as they would a user sending a racial slur.
Whitelisting/Blacklisting and templates for links are also a good idea to have. While many servers will use catch-all filters to make sure links stay in specific channels, some links will always be malicious. As such, being able to filter specific links is a good feature, with preset filters (Like the google filter provided by YAGPDB) coming in very handy for protecting your user base without intricate setup however, it is recommended you do configure a custom filter to ensure specific slurs, words etc. that break the rules of your server, aren’t being said.
Invite filtering is equally important in large or public servers where users will attempt to raid, scam or otherwise assault your server with links with the intention of manipulating your user base to join or where unsolicited self-promotion is potentially fruitful. Filtering allows these invites to be recognized, and dealt with more harshly. Some bots may also allow by-server white/blacklisting allowing you to control which servers are ok to share invites to, and which aren’t. A good example of invite filtering usage would be something like a partners channel, where invites to other, closely linked, servers are shared. These servers should be added to an invite whitelist to prevent their deletion.
Raids, as defined earlier in this article, are mass-joins of users (often selfbots) with the intent of damaging your server. There are a few methods available to you in order for you to protect your community from this behavior. One method involves gating your server with verification appropriately, as discussed in DMA 301.You can also supplement or supplant the need for verification by using a bot that can detect and/or prevent damage from raids.
*Unconfigurable, triggers raid prevention based on user joins & damage prevention based on humanly impossible user activity. Will not automatically trigger on the free version of the bot.
Raid detection means a bot can detect the large number of users joining that’s typical of a raid, usually in an X in Y format. This feature is usually chained with Raid Prevention or Damage Prevention to prevent the detected raid from being effective, wherein raiding users will typically spam channels with unsavoury messages.
Raid-user detection is a system designed to detect users who are likely to be participating in a raid independently of the quantity of frequency of new user joins. These systems typically look for users that were created recently or have no profile picture, among other triggers depending on how elaborate the system is.
Raid prevention stops a raid from happening, either by Raid detection or Raid-user detection. These countermeasures stop participants of a raid specifically from harming your server by preventing raiding users from accessing your server in the first place, such as through kicks, bans, or mutes of the users that triggered the detection.
Damage prevention stops raiding users from causing any disruption via spam to your server by closing off certain aspects of it either from all new users, or from everyone. These functions usually prevent messages from being sent or read in public channels that new users will have access to. This differs from Raid Prevention as it doesn’t specifically target or remove new users on the server.
Raid anti-spam is an anti spam system robust enough to prevent raiding users’ messages from disrupting channels via the typical spam found in a raid. For an anti-spam system to fit this dynamic, it should be able to prevent Fast Messages and Repeated Text. This is a subset of Damage Prevention.
Raid cleanup commands are typically mass-message removal commands to clean up channels affected by spam as part of a raid, often aliased to ‘Purge’ or ‘Prune’.It should be noted that Discord features built-in raid and user bot detection, which is rather effective at preventing raids as or before they happen. If you are logging member joins and leaves, you can infer that Discord has taken action against shady accounts if the time difference between the join and the leave times is extremely small (such as between 0-5 seconds). However, you shouldn’t rely solely on these systems if you run a large or public server.
Messages aren’t the only way potential evildoers can present unsavoury content to your server. They can also manipulate their Discord username or Nickname to cause trouble. There are a few different ways a username can be abusive and different bots offer different filters to prevent this.
*Gaius can apply same blacklist/whitelist to names as messages or only filter based on items in the blacklist tagged %name
**YAGPDB can use configured word-list filters OR a regex filter
Username filtering is less important than other forms of auto moderation, when choosing which bot(s) to use for your auto moderation needs, this should typically be considered last, since users with unsavory usernames can just be nicknamed in order to hide their actual username.
One additional component not included in the table is the effects of implementing a verification gate. The ramifications of a verification gate are difficult to quantify and not easily summarized. Verification gates make it harder for people to join in the conversation of your server, but in exchange help protect your community from trolls, spam bots, those unable to read your server’s language, or other low intent users. This can make administration and moderation of your server much easier. You’ll also see that the percent of people that visit more than 3 channels increases as they explore the server and follow verification instructions, and that percent talked may increase if people need to type a verification command.
However, in exchange you can expect to see server leaves increase. In addition, total engagement on your other channels may grow at a slower pace. User retention will decrease as well. Furthermore, this will complicate the interpretation of your welcome screen metrics, as the welcome screen will need to be used to help people primarily follow the verification process as opposed to visiting many channels in your server. There is also no guarantee that people who send a message after clicking to read the verification instructions successfully verified. In order to measure the efficacy of your verification system, you may need to use a custom solution to measure the proportion of people that pass or fail verification.
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