Mental Health Awareness Week may be over for 2019, but our mental health should be at the top of our priority list every day of the year.

Mental Health Awareness Week falls during the month of May every year. It’s a week that was set up by The Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of the issues surrounding mental health and encourages people who suffer, and those who don’t, to talk about the likes of anxiety and depression, and other mental health diseases openly. There is something empowering about Mental Health Awareness Week. Everyone unites and comes together to share their stories and to support others, but this shouldn’t end after just seven days. We need to promote and boost awareness around mental health every week of the year.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme was Body Image. ‘Body image’ is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. That is something that definitely shouldn’t be dismissed after a single week, especially in the run up to summer and warmer months when, generally, people become more aware of their bodies in less clothes.

The Mental Health Foundation conducted a survey in March 2019, reaching out to 4,505 adults (18+) and 1,118 teenagers (13-19) in the UK to find out how they felt about their body image. The results were as follows:

  • One in five adults (20%) felt shame, just over one third (34%) felt down or low, and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year.
  • Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.
  • One in eight (13%) adults experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image.
  • Just over one in five adults (21%) said images used in advertising had caused them to worry about their body image. 
  • Just over one in five adults (22%) and 40% of teenagers said images on social media caused them to worry about their body image.

Unfortunately, with the many ever-growing social media platforms, these statistics may well rise. So, what can we do all year round to help ourselves and help others with anxiety and depression issues that revolve around body image? The Mental Health Foundation offers this advice:

Talking. As we all know, when it comes to mental health, talking is such an important element to feeling better. Talk to a friend, colleague, someone you trust, or a mental health professional. We can’t stress the importance of what may be a just a simple conversation.

Have an app clear out. If you have apps on your phone that enable you to edit images of yourself in a way that alters your body shape, consider how you use them and how they make you feel when you do. Perhaps its time to uninstall them.

Look at who you follow on social media. If you follow accounts of people who don’t promote healthy body image and positivity, or anyone who might make you feel bad in general about yourself, unfollow them. You absolutely do not need that kind of negativity in your life.

Consider the language you’re using on a daily basis. Complimenting someone on weight-loss, commenting on someone’s weight-gain or simply saying ‘I feel fat’ might all seem harmless at the time, but small comments can make you, or the people around you feel worse in the long run.

Find your best way to stay active. It’s a well known fact that exercise helps our brain to feel good, but that doesn’t mean you need to join your nearest cross-fit gym and potentially put yourself through hell. A brisk walk to work every day is enough to increase ‘happy hormones’ and relieve feelings of stress. Don’t compare your preferred form of exercise to anyone else, we are all different.

Finally, if you see any adverts in a magazine or on television that you feel could be harmful to yourself or anyone else, you can report it to the Advertising Standards Authority. Find out more here.

These issues are not just issues for a week. They are issues all year round and it’s important that we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, but also stay aware for the other 358 days. Follow these tips given by The Mental Health Foundation and in general, just be kind to yourself, to the people around you, and even to strangers. Body image is an ongoing issue, likewise every other mental health triggers. #BeBodyKind

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight studies and encourage conversation. They are for informational purposes only. Although this article features advice from professionals, we are not medically trained to offer any further advice, and it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied on for specific medical advice. If you are experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety and/or depression, please reach out to a medical practitioner for help. If you need extra help, Mind Charity, The Mental Health Foundation and Samaritans all offer immediate help at any time.

Feature image: Rafael Barros from Pexels