Instagram bans photos showing scars of teenager who used to self-harm

Instagram bans photos showing scars of teenager who used to self-harm

Teenager who used to self-harm is devastated after Instagram bans photographs showing her scars ‘for no good reason’

  • Dionne Clarke, 19, has cut and burned herself since she was 11 and still has scars
  • The teenager, from St Leonards-on-Sea, has borderline personality disorder
  • She recently started sharing photos of her scars having learned to accept them
  • But Instagram removed them as they ‘encourage self-harm or suicidal behaviour’
  • The photo-sharing app has since apologised and put the pictures back up 

A teenager who used to self-harm has had her photos removed from Instagram because they show her scars.

Dionne Clarke, 19, has struggled with burning and cutting herself since she was 11-years-old and has scars on her arms.

The teenager, from St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, recently stopped hiding her scars and started uploading normal photos of herself to Instagram, showing her enjoying time with friends, with her arms on show.

Dionne Clarke, 19, from St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, has had photos which show her self-harm scars removed from Instagram

But she said she was devastated when Instagram removed her photos, claiming they might ‘encourage self-harm or suicidal behaviour’.

Another was ‘censored’ – given a warning – for the same reason, despite it showing Dionne simply sitting in a bar, smiling at the camera, but showing her scarred arms.

Dionne said the social media platform’s reaction has caused her stress and anxiety, potentially damaging her recovery.

She said: ‘I’ve suffered with self harm for years, and have struggled to love my body after all the damage and pain I’ve put it through.

‘To receive a message from Instagram saying that I’m promoting self harm was awful – I would never wish this upon anyone.

‘I like taking pictures of lovely days out as I missed so much of my teenage years not being able to do things with friends due to anxiety and depression, but my posts are just being deleted for no good reason.

‘There’s a black and white selfie I uploaded where I was smiling that got removed.

‘I’d been feeling nice about myself for once, but Instagram brought it crashing down, telling me I’m not allowed to be happy in my damaged skin.’

Instragram’s community guidelines state they will remove photos which encourage self-harm

Dionne, who suffers with borderline personality disorder, has struggled with self harm since she was 11 years old.

She said it started due to bullying at school and family issues, and saw her cut or burn herself, or hit her own head, on a daily basis, but hasn’t harmed herself for 11 days.

Dionne has been admitted to hospital multiple times after overdosing at home or to have her wounds glued or stitched together.

Instagram community guidelines 

‘The Instagram community cares for each other, and is often a place where people facing difficult issues such as eating disorders, cutting, or other kinds of self-injury come together to create awareness or find support. 

‘We try to do our part by providing education in the app and adding information in the Help Centre so people can get the help they need.

‘Encouraging or urging people to embrace self-injury is counter to this environment of support, and we’ll remove it or disable accounts if it’s reported to us. 

‘We may also remove content identifying victims or survivors of self-injury if the content targets them for attack or humour.’

Source: Instagram 

Now on the road to recovery, Dionne, who lives with her mother and brother, has been learning how to love and accept her body as it is now.

Using Instagram since 2015, she started uploading photos on Instagram with her scars visible, in February 2019.

Dionne’s posts started to be removed in July 2019, shortly after the death of teen Molly Russell, 14, who had been following pro suicide accounts on Instagram and Pinterest.

She uploaded a black and white selfie of herself smiling on July 2 and it was removed four weeks later.

The message from Instagram said: ‘We remove posts encouraging or promoting self-injury, which includes suicide, cutting and eating disorders’

After a girls day out in Brighton, Dionne uploaded a happy picture with her friend on the beach, as well as one of her enjoying a drink at a cafe from the same day.

But the photos didn’t stay uploaded for long.

One was removed three hours later with the same message as before, and two days later a one of her pulling a face in the cafe had been blurred and labelled ‘sensitive content’.

The message read: ‘This photo contains sensitive content which some people may find offensive or disturbing.’

Dionne said the social media platform’s reaction has caused her stress and anxiety, potentially damaging her recovery

Dionne added: ‘Instagram is spreading this negative message that if you’ve ever struggled with self harm, you have to cover up for the rest of your life and feel ashamed of your scars.’

Molly Russell, 14, died November 2017, and her family claim she had been ‘suggested’ disturbing posts on Instagram and Pinterest about anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.

Instagram’s company head Adam Moressi announced in February 2019 that graphic self-harm images would be removed from the app.

However, he also claimed that some self-harm images would not be removed as long as they did not promote or encourage others to hurt themselves.

He said: ‘I might have an image of a scar and say, ‘I’m 30 days clean,’ and that’s an important way to tell my story.’

Borderline personality disorder 

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mood disorder and affects how a person interacts with others. 

It is the most commonly recognised personality disorder. 

Sufferers can differ significantly from an average person in terms of how he or she thinks, perceives, feels or relates to others. 

The symptoms of BPD are emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking or perception, impulsive behaviour and intense but unstable relationships.


Despite Moressi’s claim, photographs from self-harm survivors have repeatedly been removed, prompting some, including Dionne to use the hashtag #youcantcensormyskin.

Dionne said: ‘I am fully supportive of Instagram protecting their users by removing posts that promote self-harm, but they’ve taken their guidelines too far and are now affecting lots of sufferers’ recovery process by removing our innocent posts.

‘You can see other kinds of scars on Instagram such as surgery scars, but by just removing ours, you are telling us that our bodies are not acceptable.

‘I have never had my posts removed by any other social media site, and this response to my images has left me wanting to step away from the platform entirely.

‘I’m still fighting to love and accept my body with my scars, and I won’t let Instagram dictate if my body is allowed to be visible in the public eye any longer.’

When approached about the removal of Dionne’s photos, Instagram admitted that Dionne’s pictures had been mistakenly removed and has now restored the images on the app.

Instagram said that after changes to community guidelines were made earlier this year, more self-harm related content is being removed and in rare cases they may remove some content that they shouldn’t have.

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see for details. 

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