Raising Awareness of Eating Disorders & Body Image Issues

Mental health and emotional wellbeing concerns among students is a growing public concern, garnering an increasing amount of media attention. In recent years the anxiety epidemic has come to the forefront of newspaper headlines and now advertising think tank, Credos, has conducted a survey to bring attention to the number of young men who suffer from eating disorders. Of the 1005 secondary and primary school boys surveyed, they found that 56% saw that eating disorders were an issue for both boys and girls.

Eating disorders and issues surrounding body image are commonly associated with females, but this is a serious issue that affects what Credos suggests, just as many boys and girls, with advertising having a huge impact on their self perception. They found that 53% of secondary school boys felt pressure to look good based on the images used in ad campaigns. This stigma, and the pressure they feel to be, and look ‘masculine’ can make it increasingly difficult for boys to talk about their issues.

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It’s important that as educators we help bring awareness of eating disorders in both boys and girls and similarly are aware of the warning signs of these illnesses. It is our duty to provide proper support and guidance to our students. There are simple actions we can take to help ensure we’re doing all that we can to reduce this stigma and help both boys and girls who may be suffering:

Recognise that men are also affected by eating disorders

As already mentioned, eating disorders are commonly associated with women and this can make it even harder for boys who are suffering with them to open up and seek help. To help put their minds at ease, PSHE lessons or openly discussing eating disorders, can bring attention to high profile men who have overcome these illnesses and their stories can be used to inspire those who may be suffering.

Publicise support services in school

It’s not always clear to students who want to seek help where they can go or who they can speak to both in school, and outside. Ensure that you make all your students aware of the emotional wellbeing support that you offer in your school, hand out letters with the name of the pastoral team and their office times. Also inform your students of the charities and helplines that provide mental health support, so if they don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone in school they know where they can go. Beat are an eating disorder charity who have a youth helpline that can be promoted in school: 0345 634 7650

Make students aware of the impact advertising can have on their self esteem

It’s important to make our students aware of the effect that advertising can have on their self-esteem and that the images that are portrayed to them (both male and female) aren’t necessarily natural and that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ body. Media Smart have created resources for both parents and teachers that they can use to talk to students about body image and the strong influence advertising can have on them. Working with big brands such as L’Oreal, they explore real ad campaigns and their desired effect and the impact it can have on them. These resources are free to download and can work as a great in-class activity, or for use during tutor time.

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