Being body kind during Mental Health Awareness Week

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This week (13-19 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW). We investigate what the week is, why we highlight it, and this year’s theme, body image: how we think and feel about our bodies.

It’s important to highlight mental health problems all year round, but MHAW is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding them.

Mental health affects us all, one in four of us each year to be exact, and it is just as important as physical health.

MHAW

Every year the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) runs MHAW, an opportunity to raise awareness of the prevalence of mental health problems in the UK. The week works to reduce stigma surrounding the topic and starts an open discussion on mental health.

Mental health can be positive and negative, just like your physical health.

MHAW can be even more important for veterans who find it difficult to talk about their mental health after returning to civvy street.

Credit: @HelpForHeroes on Twitter

This week different organisations and individuals will be trying to raise awareness, understanding, improve education and reduce the stigma around mental health.

When we talk about mental health, issues like depression, anxiety and stress are often at the forefront, but mental health issues can be things you don’t even expect.

Body image

Each MHAW there is a theme, in the past these have included loneliness, friendship and sleep. Last year’s theme, stress, brought new research to light that highlighted the effect of negative body image on mental health.

It was found that almost one in every three people have felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. It was clear that more research was needed, and fast.

Credit @seemescotland on Twitter

This year, the theme is body image: how we think and feel about our bodies.

After leaving the Armed Forces, the pressure to find a home, employment, build new relationships and maintain old ones can be overwhelming. Low confidence and low self-esteem can be exacerbated, or caused, by body image issues.

Research

In preparation for MHAW, the MHF asked UK adults how they felt about their bodies. The research found that 34% of adults felt down or low about their body image, and 20% felt ashamed. Almost 20% of adults said they felt disgusted by their body image in the last year.

Having body image concerns isn’t a mental health problem, however, it can be a risk factor for mental health problems. Research shows that negative feelings about our bodies are associated with poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours.

The same research found that more than a third of adults have felt anxious or depressed because of their body image, and one in eight have experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image.

It’s time to take body image issues seriously.

#BeBodyKind

Throughout MHAW, and all year round, you can raise awareness of mental health problems. Whether it is speaking about your own experiences or giving your friends accurate information about mental health problems, every conversation helps reduce stigma.

In keeping with this year’s theme, the MHF are encouraging people to get on social media and use #BeBodyKind.

Credit @drumstudiosltd on Instagram

Simply post a photo of yourself on social media of a time or place where you felt comfortable in your own skin and use the hashtag. This could be a picture of yourself or something else that reminds you of the moment.

Each post will add to the discussion and raise awareness.

Support

If you are struggling with a mental health problem or body image issues, there is support available.

Samaritans can be contacted via call or email 24/7. Call 116 123 to speak with a Samaritan for support, or email [email protected]

New service Shout is free, anonymous, and uses text messaging to connect people experiencing a mental health crisis with volunteers.

Using text messaging, Shout offers a convenient, confidential way to seek mental health support. Simply text Shout to 85258 for help.

Specialised support for veterans’ mental health is available. Combat Stress run a helpline which is available 24/7 by contacting 0800 138 1619.

SSAFA‘s Forcesline is available via phone or email. Call 0800 731 4880 or send an email here.

If you want to learn more about mental health and why it is so important, visit the MHF website.

For help in an emergency always call 999.

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