10th May 2019

Feeling comfortable
in your own skin

The Mental Health Foundation was established over 70 years ago in the UK, with the aim of finding and addressing the sources of mental health problems to help people understand, protect, and sustain their mental health. 

Every year in May, the Foundation campaigns on a specific aspect of mental health during their awareness week, which this year runs from 13th - 19th May. Over the past 18 years, they have looked at issues such as stress, loneliness, sleep, and alcohol; this year the focus is on body image. 

Body image: reality or fantasy?

Although we tend to think of teenage girls and young women when the term body image comes to mind, I’m sure many of us have caught a glimpse of ourselves in a shop window or mirror and wondered who that strange looking person might be. 

Most of us have an internal vision of ourselves which doesn’t necessarily match the reality. This may frequently cause us to compare ourselves unfavourably with others; at its worst, this can have a profound effect on both our mental and physical health. Recent figures published by the Foundation showed that 30% of people were so stressed about their body image that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

It’s time to talk about body image

Although body image may affect people differently depending on age, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality, these issues cut across all of these demographics. During Mental Health Week, the Foundation aims to start a national conversation and encourage us to be kinder to ourselves and resist the factors that can have a negative impact on our body image. 

During Mental Health Week, the results of one of the largest surveys ever carried out on body image will be published. This will paint a picture of how people in the UK really feel about themselves, and will describe the increased risk of mental health problems that go hand in hand with a poor body image. The Foundation will also publish suggestions on managing your body image (mentalhealth.org.uk/mhaw), and they also plan to make recommendations to policy makers about UK-wide changes that could be made to improve this aspect of mental health.

The Foundation believes that many of the mental health problems that spring from a poor body image can be avoided by exploring ways of making changes in our cultural values (including discrimination), parental and schooling styles, use of social media, and advertising standards. Indeed, they have already succeeded in persuading the Advertising Standards Authority to ban a series of cosmetic surgery ads shown around a popular TV show, explaining that they exacerbated young people’s insecurities by showing an unrealistic image of perfection. 

How can you get involved?

  • Take the body image challenge: simply post a picture on social media of a time or place when you felt comfortable in your skin; it doesn’t matter how long ago or where this was. Use the hashtags #BeBodyKind and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
  • Follow the Foundation on social media and join the conversation
  • Wear a green ribbon, the international symbol of mental health awareness, to show you care about mental health

Find out more about these activities and other ways in which you can help spread the word at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/