Monday 13th May marked the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme this year was Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies. This was connected to research conducted by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) last year, which found body dissatisfaction to be a common problem: 30% of all adults have felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope – that’s almost 1 in every 3 people! But body image and appearance are also a substantial concern among children and young people. One survey of 11-16-year-olds found that 52% often worry about how they look, whilst 16–25-year-olds identified body image as being the third biggest challenge currently causing harm to young people, with lack of employment opportunities and failure to succeed within the education system being the first two (MHF Report – page 9).
Mental Health Awareness Week saw people sharing selfies without makeup (#NoMakeUpSelfie) and spreading supportive body image messages on social media, possibly helping to bridge the gap and prevent people feeling alone in their struggles. Sarah-Jane Marsh, Chair of the NHSE/I Maternity and Children & Young People’s Transformation Programmes, tweeted: “We are surrounded by images of perfect looking people, many of which are airbrushed or filtered – but no one really sees that when they look in the mirror, so #bebodykind to yourself and others.”
Today also marks the start of #mentalhealthawarenessweek so here’s my #nomakeupselfie We are surrounded by images of perfect looking people, many of which are airbrushed or filtered – but no one really sees that when they look in the mirror so #bebodykind to yourself and others pic.twitter.com/TqWvhXYmRP
— Sarah-Jane Marsh 🌈 (@BWCHBoss) May 13, 2019
Although social media has been shown to be a contributing factor to negative thoughts concerning body image in childhood (MHF Report – page 10) through the power of human connection, it could be an effective tool to bring people together and help to improve mental public health.