Mental Health Awareness Week
JANUARY 21, 2020
Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13-19 May 2019 and this years theme is body image.
The Mental Health Foundation have released a report setting out the individual, family and cultural influences that sometimes result in a debilitating sense of dissatisfaction with our own bodies. The report highlights that having body image concerns is a relatively common experience and is not a mental health problem in and of itself; however, it can be a risk factor for mental health problems. Research also found that higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders.
New online surveys were conducted by the Mental Health Foundation with YouGov in March 2019 of 4,505 UK adults 18+ and 1,118 GB teenagers (aged 13-19). The results highlighted that:
- One in five adults (20%) felt shame, just over one third (34%) felt down or low, and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year.
- Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.
- Just over one third of adults said they had ever felt anxious (34%) or depressed (35%) because of their body image.
- One in eight (13%) adults experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image.
- Just over one in five adults (21%) said images used in advertising had caused them to worry about their body image.
Effective regulation of how body image is portrayed
- The Online Harms White Paper should address harms relating to the promotion of unhelpful or idealised body image online, beyond content related to eating disorders. An improved practice on how social media platforms promote unhealthy imaging should be enforced by the new independent regulator.
- The Advertising Standards Authority should consider pre-vetting high-reach broadcast adverts from high-risk industries – such as cosmetic surgery companies and weight-loss products and services – to ensure all advertising abides by its codes. It should also make greater use of its ability to proactively instigate investigations.
Industry responsibility to promote body kindness
- Social media companies should sign the Be Real Campaign’s Body Image Pledge and investigate new ways of using their platforms to promote positive body image and to ensure that a diversity of body types is presented positively to their users.
- Social media companies should have clear systems for users to report bullying and discrimination and targets for action to be taken. They should give users greater control over the content they see in an accessible way.
Public health and education approaches to body image
- Training for frontline health practitioners and the early years childcare workforce should include information about how parents and carers can, from a very early age, positively influence their children’s feelings about their bodies through their behaviours and attitudes.
- Children and adults in distress should receive fast and empathetic support when they need it, regardless of where they live in the country.
- Public campaigns on nutrition and obesity should avoid the potential to create stigma and indirectly contribute to appearance-based bullying. They should focus on healthy eating and exercise for all members of the population, regardless of weight.
- A co-produced body image and media literacy toolkit should be a compulsory element of what children learn in schools. This should include the development of a charter for achieving a healthy and positive body image.