It doesn’t have to take over your life, it doesn’t have to define you as a person, it’s just important you ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness- Demi Lovato
On the second Monday in May every year, this time from the 13th-19th May, mental health awareness week (MHAW) in the UK begins. While there are still vast improvements to be made in reducing stigma and achieving a level playing field to physical health, it’s fantastic to see MHAW, World Suicide Prevention Day, World Mental Health Day and many others as firm fixtures on the calendar around the world. More people than ever before are talking about mental health. If nothing else, we’re making significant steps in the right direction!
Since its inception back in 2001, the Mental Health Foundation has selected an annual theme and contributed to extensive UK-wide research, evidence and debate on that chosen theme. Following on from the topic of stress in 2018, the theme for 2019 is Body Image. In particular, the way we view ourselves and how those judgments make us feel.
According to a poll by the MHF, a startling 1 in 8 people aged 18 and above have been so distressed about their body image that they’ve considered killing themselves. Figures now are well into the millions. The obvious question is, why?
With the rise of social media platforms, hugely edited, airbrushed photos, advertisements in cosmetics, fashion and beauty, cosmetic surgery procedures and the current wave of celebrity culture, people nowadays are made to think and reflect on appearance more than ever before. Industries are immersed with perfectionism. The quantity and frequency of which we see images of the ‘perfect body’ are increasing exponentially. Diversity around the range of bodies people see is simply not where it should be. Far too much emphasis is placed on external appearance and what we ‘should’ look like, rather than what’s on the inside. Is it any wonder so many people feel inadequate and insecure about their looks when you consider all these factors?
According to another detailed study by YouGov in March of this year, it was found that 1 in 3 British adults have felt either anxious or depressed due to concerns over body image and 1 in 10 women have self-harmed because of the same issue.
Furthermore, graphic content, including the mention of suicide and self-harm, is also being shared at alarming rates without any genuine checks or warning. Wherever people turn, they continue to be inundated and it’s very hard to escape. And it’s pretty scary to think that at the click of a button almost anything can be posted, no matter how damaging or triggering it could be. The consequences can be devastating, yet they’re often buried under the carpet.
As negative body image can affect anybody, of any background, at any stage in life, it’s incredibly important that the government, media outlets, influential companies, organisations and the general public begin to take this pressing issue more seriously and act. Smartly and efficiently.
From my own experience of struggling with body image in the past- very much hating how I look and my confidence extremely low- I would argue that it’s time that the content we view through social media and other outlets should be stringently vetted. Content that aggravates body image concerns should be deleted before it even sees the light of day. That way it can do no harm. The only way of managing the situation is by stopping it at source; prevention rather than cure. How we respond to this crisis of negative body image will determine its long-term impact, positive or negative.
Let’s remember that every single person, whatever their appearance, should be able to embrace how they look. Not feel like they should be different or have to change to please others. Being unique is what makes us the people we are!
Thanks for reading,