This year Mental Health Week is focused around a topic that can affect us all – body image.
How you feel about the way you look can have a significant effect on your self-confidence, and spill over into many aspects of your life. Whilst it can affect everyone, adolescents can struggle with body image the most.
Recently published research shows that teenagers, particularly girls, are unsatisfied with their body image. The concerns are associated with social media use and poor mental health outcomes. (The Scottish Government, 2019) However, we have found that more boys have reported appearance related bullying on tootoot, suggesting boys may prefer reporting using digital tools such as apps to talk about their concerns.
Young people spend a lot of time online. Ofcom reported in 2017 that 99% of 12-15-year-olds go online for nearly 21 hours a week. That’s 3 hours a day that young people can spend being subject to the pressures of social media.
The Royal Society for Public Health surveyed teens and young adults to find out how social media platforms impacted their mental and physical health. Instagram was found to have the most negative impact on body image, it was associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO. (RSPH, 2017) For anyone that has Instagram this may not come as a surprise. Spending time on an app that is focused on highly curated images can easily distort a person’s perception of reality.
When pupils look to the media, they can struggle to find someone that represents themselves. This can cause them to ask, why? Am I not normal? Should they change their appearance to mimic what they are seeing portrayed as ‘the ideal’? The desire to fit in can be all consuming and significantly impact their mental health.
It is important that we help students to differentiate between real life and curated virtual lives. By giving them a platform that they feel comfortable with to speak up about any concerns they might have.
A survey found over 65% of 16-24-year-olds would turn to online support for a mental health issue or concern. This is where tootoot can help, by providing a safe space for students to voice any concerns before they develop into problems in their later life.
Over the past few years tootoot has supported 15,000 pupils with concerns, 602 of those relating to mental health. How a person thinks about their body can seriously affect their mental health leading to illnesses such as anxiety, depression or body dysmorphia.
A quote below from Cedars Academy highlights how well children can conceal their true feelings, and the importance of giving them a platform they feel comfortable with to share their worries.
“A child messaged tootoot to express how uncomfortable she felt in her body and how low she felt due to some comments made from other children.
We were able to liaise with her class teacher to work with the other children. Messages are sent via tootoot and verbally to promote her positive body image.
This child always seemed bubbly, chatty, confident and generally happy. This case shows how much we underestimate children’s abilities to mask their true feelings, without the message on tootoot we would haven’t have suspected anything was wrong.”
– Cedars Academy
As the first generation of social media users are becoming adults, we need to ensure that the digital future is a healthy one.
To recognise the importance of giving young people a voice during Mental Health Awareness Week we’ve created a free six week programme for schools.
Sign-up below before the 19th May to claim your free, fully-funded six week Mental Health Awareness Week plan and free trial of tootoot! tootoot.co.uk/signup-free-programme
We have created a list of 8 social media accounts to follow that promote happiness and positive body image.