This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme this year is body image. Mental health is an issue that one in four of us will suffer at any one time, and sadly is still surrounded my many misconceptions and stigma. This week aims to tackle this by raising awareness of what mental health actually is, whilst taking a look at the role that body image plays in impacting a persons mental health.

According to data gathered by YouGov, the way we feel about and view our bodies impacts our mental health. Shockingly, these findings reveal that over one in three teenagers feel upset about how their body looks. Even more harrowing is the fact that 31% felt ashamed at their body image.

Could social media have a part in the number of young people suffering from a poor body image?

However, this is not too surprising as teenagers are the most active on social media. Surely it cannot be healthy to be bombarded by an onslaught of expectations, ‘perfect’ bodies and airbrushed models each time they open apps like Instagram or Snapchat. In 2016, a study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh found a link between the time spent on social media and negative body image.

A negative body image may be a driving factor for a person to develop more serious mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, or eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa. This has lead to Sarb Bajwa, CEO of the British Psychological Society to say that body image is a “policy of priority” this year.

It is estimated that roughly 1.25 million people in the UK live with an eating disorder by Beat, an eating disorder charity. 75% (approx) of the people suffering are female. This year it is time to recognise this, and ensure that the proper support is offered to people from the onset of one of these vicious life stealing diseases, rather than waiting for them to hit rock bottom. Early intervention saves lives.