Supporting Young People to #BeBodyKind

Lauren Pluss, our Senior Digital & Comms Officer, blogs for us this Mental Health Awareness Week on some of the discussions about body positivity and the role of social media that came out of the Mental Health Foundation’s recent event on Healthy Social Media.

You've probably noticed that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week - it's doing a fantastic job of taking over social media platforms this week (well done Mental Health Foundation!). This year's theme is body image: how we think and feel about our bodies. Research has found that 52% young people worry about how they look and that social media plays a role in creating this anxiety

A few weeks ago, I attended an event by the Mental Health Foundation where participants looked at how we can build a positive body image on social media. A range of advice, ideas and tips were discussed. This week seems like a good opportunity to share some of the ideas and generate discussion about how we can support young people to feel more body confident and support them to manage their relationship with social media. Take a look at some of these ideas from young people, researchers and practitioners from the event: 

➡️ Unfollowing people that make you feel bad

Encourage young people to think about the people they follow on social media, how do they make them feel? If it is not positive, maybe it’s time they tapped the unfollow button. Danni Gordon, a body positivity blogger, was at the event and shared an important message (that we should all remind ourselves of from time to time!): "if you ever feel bad or sad about your body, it's probably not your fault." 

➡️ Language

We all need to be mindful of how we talk about our bodies in casual conversations. It can sometimes be hard to feel positive about our bodies, but another way to consider this relationship is to think about all of the awesome things our bodies do to keep us alive each day! Another wise snippet from Danni: “my body doesn’t dictate me and my life, but it’s very important; I need it, and rely on it, to live my life.”

➡️  Managing time on phones

A range of suggestions were discussed on limiting time on phones, for example using apps like Forest (where you grow a virtual tree for time spent away from your phone) or designated "no phone” time or zones. Young people at the event felt that when everyone was off their phone (youth workers / parents / teachers included - and, importantly, no excuses) it was successful in giving some headspace and took the pressure away of always being online. 

➡️ Deleting social media

It was recognised that relationships with social media might change over time, and deleting accounts and apps was sometimes a good way to release the pressure of ‘always showing our good selves’. This did not necessarily mean forever, but for a period until young people felt they were able to have a more positive relationship with social media. 

➡️ Better education about body image and social media

Were you ever taught about body confidence or image? About the relationship between exercise, health and food? Probably not. Think about how you could have discussions about this at your youth club, you could look at:

  • Using toolkits – take a look at the My Body My Way toolkit that was launched in Year of Young People to discuss body image.
  • Teaching media literacy - help support young people to be media-critical and to understand about how some photographs are edited and changed. Resources developed as part of the European Digital Youth Work project might help get you started, for example the ‘growing up with the media’ resource.

Do you have any other ideas? Tweet us @YouthLinkScot

Of course, a lot needs to be done in terms of regulation of social media and advertising as well as better representation in the media - to name just a few things. So it’s great to see the Mental Health Foundation have produced a range of recommendations for policy and action as part of this week’s campaign.

Get involved 

Take part in #BeBodyKind

You can get involved in Mental Health Foundation's #BeBodyKind this week. They are encouraging people to take part in the image challenge. Simply post on social media a picture of a time or a place when you felt comfortable in your own skin – this could be now, five years ago or at the age of five. It can be a photo of yourself or something else that reminds you of the moment. Remember to use the hashtags #BeBodyKind and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek - and tag us too, we'd love to see your images.

We're recruiting

Finally, if you’re interested in mental health, remember that we are currently recruiting a Mental Health & Wellbeing Officer!

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