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Body Image Theme For Mental Health Week 2019

A Government Report into Body Image was published in 2012 which showed the link between body dysmorphia and mental health problems.

Since then, the debate about body image and how it affects female adults AND children, and increasingly more male adults and children; continues with no mass changes in editorial policy regarding the images in magazines, on TV and crucially in advertising. In social media, applications that can transform an individual's photograph of their body and face can be used to morph the person's image into any shape they desire.

All this is adding further pressure on young and adult women, and challenges their individual view of their bodies.

It is no surprise then, that this year's Mental Health Awareness Week should adopt the theme of Body Image.

Elli Long Young Workers Officer Greater Mersey Amal Branch, makes a simple point about how social media is helping to increase stress and anxiety in young people:

Since 2012 and the publication of the All Party Parliamentary Committee on the causes of body image problems, very little has been done by the industries involved in creating stress and anxiety about how to look 'perfect'; which effects mainly women and girls.

By highlighting the negative mental health affects being caused by TV, Cinema,print and social media promotion of the 'perfect body', campaigners are raising public awareness in the hope that action will beginning to happen in the industries concerned.

In Royal Mail, there is a week of activities which were reported by CWU's National Health, Safety and Environment Officer, Dave Joyce via his letter to all CWU branches: LTB283/19

Amongst the attachments that Dave sent with his LTB, was the plan by Royal Mail for the week's activities:

You can download the full LTB in PDF format by clicking on the pic.

Amongst the information provided in the LTB, is the encouragement to get RM staff talking about the issues of Mental Health problems:

Raising awareness of the support options available and encouraging staff with issues feeling anxious, worried or stressed or in serious distress to open up, don’t hide problems, talk and ask for help, stressing that they are not alone and making the point that millions of people in this country are also wrestling with an unseen mental health condition.

Here are some options:

  • Mental health support is available from the First Class Support helpline which is available 24/7. It’s confidential and free to use.
  • Talk to the GP.
  • Visit the Feeling First Class website where staff can access lots of support material.‎
  • Talk to a manager or colleague who can help guide individuals to the right support services.
  • Stressing to those struggling that conversations will be treated confidentially.
  • Supporting each other – Communicate, encourage colleagues to talk and take the time to listen without judgement, some people just need to be heard, others need professional support, direct them to support services and help them to access what they need.

The Unionsafety E-Library contains numerous reports on Mental Health. You can access them by using search word 'Mental Health' for a broad listing of documents which include mental health aspects within them, or by choosing the Category 'Mental Health' to be specific.

Our mental health is affected by numerous elements of our society and in the workplace, and as such, there may be more than one section of the E-Library which contains relevant documents.

For the purpose of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, body image and how the media and in particular print media has a detrimental effect upon people's lives; can be seen in this video which exemplifies the degree of manipulation that is done to images of women:


There is in fact a lot of good advice available to everyone concerned about their body image, including from the Mental Health Foundation which gives people these main tips for dealing with their anxieties over body image:

1. If your body image is a significant cause of stress, or if you’re being bullied about how your body looks, consider talking to a friend, a trusted adult or a health professional.

It’s especially important to do this if you’re feeling any pressure to make drastic decisions – for instance, having cosmetic surgery, starting extreme dieting or trying drugs and supplements – or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself. We have included a list of organisations you can contact directly for confidential support at the bottom of this page. 

2. Spring-clean your apps on your smartphone

Be aware of how you feel when using them and, if you find them stressful in relation to your body image, consider uninstalling them. 
3. Look at the people in the accounts you’re following on social media and be mindful of how you feel about your own body and appearance when you look at them.

Consider muting or unfollowing accounts or hashtags that cause you to feel negatively about your body or appearance or encourage you to compare yourself unfavourably to others. Be considerate of the impact of your own posts on other people. 

4. If you see an advert in a magazine, on television, or online that you think presents an unhealthy body image as aspirational, you can complain to the Advertising Standards Authority.

This can start the process of investigation and action. Information on how to complain is set out here 

5. At home, parents and carers can lead by example by modelling positive behaviour around body image, eating healthily and staying active.

You can: praise children for qualities unrelated to physical appearance; avoid criticising your own or other people’s appearance; and avoid placing unrealistic expectations on how people look. In addition, you can support children to express their emotions and communicate their feelings about their bodies.
6. Our language is important.

In our daily lives, we can all be more aware of the ways in which we speak about our own and other people’s bodies in casual conversations with friends and family.

Consistently saying things that reinforce youth and being slim as the essence of beauty (for instance: “I feel fat today”, “They don’t have the body to wear that”, “You look great, did you lose weight?”, “They look so old” or “It highlights my wrinkles”) may feel harmless in the moment, but can make us feel worse about our bodies in the long run.  

7. Find the best way that works for you to stay active.

A healthy amount of exercise every week can make us feel better about our bodies, encourage good mood and decrease stress. But don’t overdo it. The best workout programmes are the ones you actually enjoy.

Support Organisations

Samaritans: If you need someone to talk to then Samaritans are available on 116 123 (UK) for free, 24/7. They are there to talk to, listen and they won't judge or tell you what to do. 

Mind: If you are looking for professional support then Mind can help you with their Infoline. They can find information for you on what support is available in your local area. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 (UK), they are available Mon - Fri 9am - 6pm. 

Beat: If you want to speak to a trained eating disorder helpline support worker then you can call Beat's helpline on 0808 801 0711 (UK) they are open 365 days of the year 12pm - 6pm Mon - Fri and 4pm - 8pm weekends and bank holidays.

 If you want emotional support as a man or for a man in your life then you can call CALM's helpline on 0800 58 58 58. It is for men in the UK who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They're open 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year.

 If you are feeling suicidal or are having suicidal thoughts you can contact Maytree Maytree have a house available for people at moments when they're feeling suicidal. They offer a free 4 night, 5 day stay for adults, with the opportunity to be heard in complete confidence, in a caring, safe environment.
You can contact them on 0207 263 7070. 

Urgent professional help: If you are concerned that you are developing a mental health problem you should seek the advice and support of your GP as a matter of priority. If you are in distress and need immediate help and are unable to see a GP, you should visit your local A&E Source: MHF / unionsafety

Please note: What BT and other employer's of CWU members are doing for the week has not been issued by the relevant departments within CWU and so this website cannot report on those details.

Source: MHF / CWU / Global Democracy / unionsafety

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