This week (13-19 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week, when we raise awareness of the issues surrounding mental health, and try to break down the stigma around mental health issues.
Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), this year, the theme of the week is Body Image, looking at how we view and feel about our bodies.
The MHF found that 30 per cent of adults have felt so overwhelmed and stressed by their body image or appearance that they felt unable to cope. This year’s theme hopes to promote body positivity, to enable people to feel more comfortable in their own skin.
Body image can have a huge impact on mental health, affecting confidence, self-esteem, effective communication and wellbeing.
We live in a time where we can’t go on our phones without seeing an advert for flat tummy tea or appetite-suppressing lollipops pedalled by some of the most influential celebrities in the world.
It is these messages from women with young, impressionable fans – women who can afford to pay a private trainer to work with them every single day, and have hidden cosmetic alterations from their fans for years before coming clean – that can have an extremely damaging effect on women who don’t have access to such luxuries.
That’s not to say that women shouldn’t have plastic surgery: body positivity is about autonomy, and having the choice to do to your body what you want to, to make you feel comfortable in your own skin.
However, it is important to be aware that these celebrities have not achieved their ‘perfect’ bodies through the products they’re trying to sell followers, but rather through means that their fans simply cannot live up to.
This year, there are many ways to get involved with Mental Health Awareness Week.
To mark this week, why not reach out and speak about anything that’s troubling you, and offer the same to others. Talking about mental health and body image reduces the stigma, and normalises conversations about mental health, which can, ultimately, save lives.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, and would like support, there are many charities and organisations that can do so. For more information visit the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, and Rethink.