This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s an annual campaign designed to make the public take the time to think about mental health and how it may be affecting them or their loved ones. The theme this year is “Body Image” and was chosen to make us all consider how we think and feel about our bodies.
How is body image linked to mental health?
The majority of us will have, at some point, looked in the mirror and not liked what we’ve seen. While negative body image isn’t in itself a mental health issue, it can develop into one along with some other nasty symptoms such as poor quality of life and unhealthy and damaging eating behaviours.
The Mental Health Foundation found that 1 in 5 of us feel ashamed of our bodies and 1 in 3 of us have felt anxious or depressed as a result of body image. These figures are huge and clearly indicate that something needs to be done to help improve the nation’s body image and the associated mental health issues.
Social Media and Body Image
As the age of social media continues to expand, the mental health concerns associated with it follow. 1 in 5 adults have viewed images on social media that have caused them to worry about their own bodies and there is currently little regulation on social media platforms to present body criticizing content. While social media is not necessarily to blame for this trend, the way in which we use it is often damaging and steps need to be taken in order to promote body positivity and provide access to help for those who find themselves struggling with their body image while online.
The Be Real Campaign’s Body Image Pledge is striving to collect the signatures of top social media companies to look into how body diversity can be represented online and how social media can become a more positive experience for all users.
How can you help?
In modern society, most of us are guilty of posting only the positive aspects of our lives. Our social media accounts rarely show us slouched on a sofa, eating pizza, with unwashed hair surrounded by mess. Yet for a lot of us, this is more common than the pictures presented on our social media accounts showing holidays abroad or pictures of ball gowns and suits. While it’s down to personal choice what you share online, remember that what you don’t share, other people are unlikely to share either.
Be mindful of the accounts and pages that you follow and be aware of how they’re affecting you. Regularly look through your followed pages and don’t be afraid to unfollow if you think it’s having a negative effect on your mental health. Finally, this is not something that will change overnight, but being aware of the dangers of negative body image and how it may be affecting those around you can help you to become an ambassador for positive body image.
If you or someone you know is struggling with body image and you’re concerned please don’t hesitate to talk to someone. Talk to us.