So as we near the end of mental health awareness week I thought I’d share my thoughts and feelings on why it’s so important. My absence for only writing about this now, ironically due to my own mental health. My own anxiety. Sometimes the hardest, most meaningful to me blogs take the longest to write. But I’m here now. So here I am, talking about why I think we need to talk more, why we need a week to focus on the realities of mental health. This year the focus was on body image and some surprisingly shocking stats were released by The Mental Health Foundation. Here are just three that I want to go deeper on.
1. One in eight adults have experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image.
2. Over a third of UK adults have felt anxious or depressed because of concerns about their body image.
3. Almost half of 18-25 year olds said social media had caused them to worry about their body image.
These are facts from the Mental Health Foundation, from a survey they conducted online which included 4,505 UK adults, for over 18’s to mark mental health awareness week.
And honestly although these facts shocked me at first, I completely related. Body image. We are surrounded every day by media, by social media, by people day to day, by family, and even by friends that tell us how to improve our bodies in some way. How to buy into the diet industry, how to buy into the beauty industry.
And as I thought more about these stats it made me realise. I don’t actually think I know a woman who hasn’t at some point been on a diet. Who hasn’t been on a ‘health kick’ who hasn’t wanted to try oils and lotions and creams to make stretch marks, cellulite, and wrinkles disappear. And then I thought, do I know any men that haven’t? I don’t think I do. We’re surrounded to believe that something about us, can be fixed. And it’s everywhere, as you walk down the street, as you scroll through your phone as you sit and watch your favourite programme. We are living in an age where more and more of us are speaking out about mental health, and about these feelings we hold deep down. Which is great, the more we talk the less stigmatised it becomes. The more we can fight to have more mental health services, to have more understanding than judgment. But sadly with the diet industry booming and sales to become ‘fitspo’ and ‘healthy’ I don’t think it’s an industry that’s going anywhere soon.
And then it makes me wonder. If these industries are growing, and more people are starting to doubt their worth more because of simply the way they appear to others, what will stop them? What scares me most is that the statistics shared above were taken from an audience of over 18’s. With social media growing and teenagers living in an age that is so heavily influenced on looks, it worries me what would the stats be if they looked into the 12-18 age bracket?
The three facts I shared above. I relate so much because at some point In my life I’ve felt this way. Body confidence doesn’t happen over night. At 16 I felt like there was no turning back. My mind controlled everything I put into my body and everything I did. And not in a positive way. It lead to dark times, a time where my only reason for existence felt like it was to loose weight. Since then things have been better. In the last few years I found being pregnant and having a post-partum body extremely difficult to accept. Then ‘shedding for the wedding’ the ridiculous diet I put myself on just to be a dress size smaller for the biggest day of my life. I looked at the photos and it made me realise. It didn’t matter what size I was, it was my mindset that had to change. In the last three years I’ve come so, so far. The bad days still occur, the days where I wonder if I’d be more worthy if I were a few stone lighter. But then I remember my weight does not define my worth.
The theme for this year’s #mentalhealthawarenessweek – Be Body Kind. It’s one I think we can all relate to. And it’s not to forceful, it’s not saying love your body! Be best friends with it! It’s saying simply be kind. Nourish it, take it for walks, relax. Try to be content in the skin you are in. In a world surrounded by Instagram models and a new ‘Kardashian’ diet each week, try to just accept who you are. Don’t put something off simply because of the label you wear.
I’ve shared some images along with this blog, they feature a set that was gifted to me by Brastop recently. I don’t ever feel the need to post underwear photos when talking about body confidence, but for me it’s empowering. After spending so many years hating my body, the way it looked, the way it felt, wearing underwear and appreciating the beauty of it and how it makes my body look and feel. It’s so wonderful.
This Mental Health Awareness week I want to ask you, are you okay? Have you been body kind to yourself lately? And If the answer is no, then just know it’s okay. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Surround yourself with positive influences. Take time out and please reach out if you need to. Speak to your GP, to your best friend to someone that can help. Below I’ve added some details of a few organisations and crisis lines UK that I found through the Mental Health Foundation if you need someone to listen. Please know it’s okay not to be okay, you are so worthy and there is always someone there for you.
The Samaritans – free to call, 24/7, non judgemental, just there to talk to. UK number – 116 123
Beat – Trained Eating disorder helpline open 365 days of the year, open 12-6pm Monday- Friday and 4-8pm weekends and bank holidays UK number – 0808 801 0711