Reflecting mental health awareness week

Look in the mirror what do you see? Does it reflect you as a person or simply the shell which you inhabit? Many people would say that what is really important is the person that you are inside, your thoughts and your feelings, your attitudes and the way you interact with others around you.


And yet for some, the way in which they think of their body can negatively impact their overall self-image; sometimes to an unhealthy extent. That’s one reason why 2019’s mental health awareness week from 13th -19th May is focusing on body image as one of its core themes. Research released in tandem with the event have revealed that:

  • 37% of teenagers feel ashamed in relation to their body image
  • 35% of adults feel depressed because of the way they view their body
  • 13% of adults have experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of body image concerns


Now let’s start by saying that there is nothing new in idealising body image. Just look at statues and paintings from ancient Greek times as an example of art holding up a mirror to life. But it is true to say that the rise of social media has brought airbrushed and toned body images into our consciousness in a way that has never been possible before. As a result, 22% of adults and 40% of teenagers admit that social media images have caused them to worry about their own body image.


In response to these concerns over body image the Mental Health Foundation has released a series of recommendations within a report entitled “Body image: How we think and feel about our bodies.” These recommendations detail actions which businesses and individuals can take in order to promote positive body awareness.


Starting with the way in which body image is portrayed in the media, the recommendations include:

  • a pre-vetting of high reach broadcast adverts in areas such as cosmetic surgery and weight-loss programs by the Advertising Standards Authority
  • social media companies to investigate how their platforms could be used to promote positive body images as well as improving their processes in respect of bullying and discrimination
  • public health and education approaches which look towards promoting a healthy and positive body image and to providing swift and empathetic support as needed


There are also a number of tips for individuals some of which apply equally in the workplace. For example, the way in which we can all be aware of the message which we convey when we talk about our own or other’s bodies in conversation and how we can take action to stamp out discrimination and bullying.


Most importantly, as with any mental health issue, encouraging open discussion cannot only help to build awareness but also to target appropriate support. In recognition of this the BBC has released a three-part series in which five men drawn from the world of sport discuss the issues which men face in 2019 including perceptions of masculinity, depression, body image and expectations.