1 In 8 Adults 'Experiences Suicidal Thoughts Over Body Image'

"Many people identified social media as an important factor causing them to worry about their body image."

Just over one in eight (13%) British adults has experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of their body image, a new survey has found.

The survey of more than 4,500 adults by the Mental Health Foundation also found a third of UK adults have felt anxious or depressed because of concerns about their body image.

The findings come on the same day a YMCA survey found almost two-thirds of young people felt pressure to look their best online, and 67% regularly worry about their appearance.

The two reports were published on Monday at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, which is themed around body image.

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The Mental Health Foundation survey also found about one in five adults felt “disgusted” because of their body image in the last year.

Chief executive Mark Rowland said the research showed millions of adults were struggling with how they feel about their bodies. “For some people this is potentially very severe, with large numbers saying they have self-harmed or had suicidal thoughts and feelings,” he said.

“Many people identified social media as an important factor causing them to worry about their body image – and the majority of respondents felt the Government needed to take more action.”

The charity is calling on the UK Government and industries to take action –including regulating social media and giving more powers to the Advertising Standards Authority.

In a separate survey, the YMCA spoke to more than 2,000 young people aged 11 to 24 years old as part of the charity’s Be Real Campaign.

The campaign urges people to sign up to its Body Image Pledge which includes limiting or stopping editing their social media posts.

The survey also found less than a fifth of young people said looking at social media “positively affected” how confident they felt about the way they look.

More than half said that celebrities and “influencers” sharing more realistic images of themselves would encourage people to post content that more accurately reflects what they look like in real life, it found.

YMCA England and Wales chief executive Denise Hatton said social media presents “a multitude of dangers” for young people. “These dangers are not just limited to the content they see, but also the pressure young people face to emulate them,” she said.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Barnardo’s has published “top tips” for parents on how to help their children celebrate who they are and be confident in themselves. These include:

– Helping children understand images in adverts and in the media have often been airbrushed;

– Talking about and “celebrating” different body shapes and sizes;

– Trying to have “relaxed” conversations about any body insecurities they have and not making it a “big thing”;

– Encouraging them to eat well and exercise regularly.

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@themix.org.uk
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.