Mental Health Week

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This week has been mental health week. I love an awareness week, I work in charity so know it’s a chance to get some attention for a cause and raise awareness.  Mental health is certainly a subject a lot of people have an experience of so it’s obvious it would have a week dedicated to it!

Nowadays mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD and more are no longer the taboos they once were. This is fantastic, it means those that are struggling with issues don’t feel the need to hide or cover those feelings up. People are happier to talk about their issues and ultimately seek the help and support they need.
With celebrities like Fearne Cotton, Frankie  Bridge, Stacey Solomon, Stephen Fry even Prince Harry all speaking about their personal struggles…I think it’s empowering for many people. It helps them know there are others who struggle; have issues; are feeling down and have low mood.
I applaud those people and think it is fantastic that we are living in a culture where people are not made to feel like they are weird, or wrong or like they should just pull themselves together.

However despite all that I have to admit when I saw the stats attached to this years awareness week I felt saddened and concerned for  the state of society. This year The Mental Health Foundation found 1 in 8 adults admit to having suicidal thoughts because of how they look. That’s so very sad, suicide is a very serious thing that has such far reaching consequences and something I think no one should ever take lightly. To even think about ending your life because of how you look to me does seem extreme. I feel almost ashamed that we live in a society where so much is hung on what you look like. I certainly have my own body image struggles, I often hate how I look, moan about my fine hair, my fat legs, the wrinkles on my face. I certainly feel down and annoyed but I would never want to take my own life. I guess that is just how you grab the media’s attention though and when you look at more stats it does become clear the majority of people are like me and not so extreme. Around body image:

34% feel anxious
35% feel depressed
19% feel disgusted (I think this is the one I identify with the most)

The full survey can be found here

The reason for all this self loathing seems to be social media! Evil social media! Now, I do agree it plays a part, but I also say instead of calling on the government and companies like Instagram and Facebook to prevent things from being posted, I agree more with other policy recommendations such:
  • Social media companies should sign the Be Real Campaign’s Body Image Pledge
  • Training for health practitioners, parents and carers can to positively influence their children’s feelings about their bodies
  • A media toolkit or charter for school children that teaches  healthy and positive body image
These sound awesome because if Im honest I don’t think advertisers will ever stop using skinny models, people are not going to stop using apps to make themselves look better.
So instead of preventing companies from posting unrealistic images let’s call for a sensible approach. I will be teaching my daughter that we all come in different shapes and sizes and what’s beautiful to one is not to others. We need to make sure everyone understands these images and celebrities that make us feel so insecure are recognised for what they are – often faked and usually unobtainable to the masses. To get a body like Chris Hemsworth or Blake Lively you need to be in the gym for hours everyday, eat an extremely healthy diet all the time and have someone telling you to do so. The celebs often admit it themselves, they have to work bloody hard to look how they do.
I agree these images may exacerbate the nations insecurities but let’s get real and teach all young people that these images are not real and encourage everyone to post and share themselves as they are. Brands are starting to be more diverse and  some companies are doing a fab job of showing all body types: Dove, Sainsbury’s TU and Boots.
In a world where there are so many things to make us stressed and depressed I hope that we can all just try to be a bit nicer to ourselves and each other. Maybe instead we should call on everyone to have the year of compliments where everyday you tell someone either on social media or in face how good they look and how much value they bring to your life hopefully one day that will be the norm.
If you would like more info on mental health, check out charities like Mind, Rethink, Young Minds and Sane.

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