Be Body Kind This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from Monday 13th to Sunday 19th May and which is hosted annually by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), focuses on body image – how we think and feel about our bodies. Concerns with body image are not necessarily a mental health issue in themselves, but having a negative body image can cause distress, anxiety, depression and isolation, and can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices – such as under- or over-eating, or exercising excessively. The results of a survey conducted by the MHF with YouGov in March 2019, highlighted that: 1 in 5 adults felt shame about their body image 1 in 3 adults felt down or low because of their body image Over a third of adults said they had felt anxious or depressed because of their body image 1 in 8 adults experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image. Over 1 in 5 adults reported that images used in advertising and social media had caused them to worry about their body image These are worrying statistics – with the hashtag #bebodykind this Mental Health Awareness Week, the MHF is encouraging us to be kinder to ourselves when it comes to how we perceive our own bodies, and those of others. Top tips for a positive body image The MHF recommends the following tips to help us improve how we feel about our bodies and to help us maintain a positive body image: If your body image is causing you 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 (https://www.asa.org.uk/). 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. The above list is an extract from the Mental Health Foundation’s report ‘Body image: How we think and feel about our bodies’, available online (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/body-image-report). Seeking help If you are worried your body image is having a negative effect on your mental wellbeing, seek help from your GP. There are also many charities and organisations that can provide information and support, like the Samaritans, Mind, Rethink, Calm and Beat. https://www.samaritans.org/ https://www.mind.org.uk/ https://www.rethink.org/ https://www.thecalmzone.net/ https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/ The Wellbeing Programme can also help by improving your mental wellbeing through its programme of nature-based activities. Participants engage in nature conservation work, wildlife walk and nature-based crafts, all of which is designed to help improve their wellbeing. If you feel you would benefit from joining the programme or know someone who might benefit, do get in touch with us on 01380 736098 or email Wellbeing ([email protected]).