Changing the conversation about health

Body image is focus for Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week (Sunday 11th – 18th May) centres on body image, having focused in previous years on areas including loneliness, sleep and stress.

This year’s focus for Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 12th to May 18th, is body image

CEO for the Mental Health Foundation, which organises the annual campaign week, Mark Rowland, wrote in a blog on this year’s message: “We are all intimately aware of the particular idiosyncrasies of our own body; its strengths and wonders and its limitations.  No piece of technology that you will ever buy will match the complexity, sophistication and regenerative powers of your body.  

“And yet… for too many of us, our bodies are sources of shame and distress.  From an early age, we are bombarded with images that define what an ‘ideal body’ looks like.  Sometimes we have faced stigma or cruelty as friends and family have used how we look as a way to put us down for a cheap laugh.” 

Rowland added: “And although we know girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to poor body image, this year we will explore body image as an issue that cuts across gender, age, sexuality and ethnicity.”

The rise of social media is one of the contributing influences that has seen self-harming in teenage girls at an all-time high

Medicine’s Chair Dr Michael Dixon said it was hugely important to raise awareness of mental health problems, especially in the young.

He said: “Stress and depression are on the increase and self-harming in teenage girls is at an all time high.

“It is difficult to deny that our mental health is at an all time low. So we need to take greater care of our own and each other’s mental health but we also need to work harder collectively to develop communities that make us healthy rather than make us ill. Social Prescription can do both.”

For the second year in a row, UK radio stations will unite for the Mental Health Minute. The minute message will air simultaneously on May 13 at 10.59am and will focus on the value of listening and the positive role it can play on our mental health.

1. Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.
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2. Keep active
Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy, and is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health.
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3. Eat well
Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
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4. Drink sensibly
We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.
When the drink wears off, you feel worse because of the way the alcohol has affected your brain and the rest of your body. Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings.
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5. Keep in touch
There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face to face, but that’s not always possible. You can also give them a call, drop them a note, or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open: it’s good for you!
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6. Ask for help
None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan.
If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear.
Local services are there to help you.
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7. Take a break
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health.
It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’.
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8. Do something you’re good at
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past?
Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem
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9. Accept who you are
We’re all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn.
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10. Care for others
Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.
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Source: Mental Health Foundation