East Riding of Yorkshire Council is supporting Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place from 13-19 May, and this year’s theme from the Mental Health Foundation is all about body image.
Body image issues can affect us all at any age and the term ‘body image’ can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies.
Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting, more generally, the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and wellbeing.
Lindsay Shelbourn, public health lead for mental health and suicide prevention at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “Poor body image can have a profound effect on our mental and physical health.
“This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week seeks to promote positive body image by working together.
“Take a look at the website below for help, advice and tips on improving body image.”
How does body image affect mental health?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 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.
Body satisfaction and appreciation has been linked to better overall wellbeing and fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours. Though feeling unsatisfied with our bodies and appearance is often more common among young women, body image concerns are relevant from childhood through to later life and affect both women and men.
What can cause body image concerns?
The way in which our experiences and environment affect our body image will be different for everyone. However, overall, the research suggests that body image can be influenced by:
○ Our relationships with our family and friends
○ How our family and peers feel and speak about bodies and appearance
○ Exposure to images of idealised or unrealistic bodies through media or social media
○ Pressure to look a certain way or to match an ‘ideal’ body type
There are further issues relevant to body image and mental health that are specific to certain factors and experiences, such as:
○ Long-term health conditions
○ Cultural differences around body ideals
○ Gender and sexuality.
The above are often linked to other societal factors and discrimination.
What can we do to help ourselves and others?
○ If your body image is a significant cause of stress, or if you’re being bullied about how your body looks, consider talking to a friend, a trusted adult or a health professional
○ Spring-clean your apps on your smartphone
○ Notice the people and accounts you’re following on social media and be mindful of how you feel about your own body and appearance when you look at them
○ If you see an advert in a magazine, on television or online that you think presents an unhealthy body image as aspirational, you can complain to the Advertising Standards Authority
○ At home, parents and carers can lead by example, by modelling positive behaviour around body image, eating healthily and staying active
○ In our daily lives, we can all be more aware of the ways in which we speak about our own and other people’s bodies in casual conversations with friends and family
○ Find the best way that works for you to stay active.
For more information, visit the Mental Health Foundation’s website www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week