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.
Different factors can have an effect on body confidence, including disability, age, race, and gender. Often, the lack of representation in mainstream media can have a massive impact on body image.
Different aspects such as public perception of disability, discrimination and stigma can also have a huge impact on body positivity, and can negatively affect existing mental health problems, or be the root cause of issues.
Everyone should be able to look in the mirror and like what they see, and tackling the inaccurate perceptions surrounding mental health and disabilities is one of the key ways to spread body positivity within the disabled community.
This year, there are many ways to get involved with Mental Health Awareness Week.
You can use the hashtag, #BeBodyKind, with a picture or memory of a time you felt comfortable in your own skin, to promote positive body images and self-love, and spread awareness about the week.
You can also wear a green ribbon – the international symbol for mental health awareness – to show your friends, family and colleagues that you’re there to have an open and honest discussion about their mental health if they would like.
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.