Dr Know: Looking into the mirror

News Desk (08 May, 2019) Columnists

Dr Jonty Heaversedge is a GP at Manor Place Surgery and Chair of NHS Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group

9292Dr Jonty Heaversedge

The rise of social media – and indeed, a heightened media interest in celebrity culture – has made it increasingly difficult to escape unrealistic images  of the ‘perfect’ body, writes Dr Jonty Heaversedge…

How do you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror?

It’s natural to be interested in your appearance, and in many cases, we can be our own harshest critics – seeing flaws or imperfections that others do not notice.

This does not make us vain or self-obsessed. Concerns about appearance and body image can affect us all, whatever our age or gender.

However, the rise of social media – and indeed, a heightened media interest in celebrity culture – has made it increasingly difficult to escape unrealistic images of the ‘perfect’ body.

For some, the pressure to conform can be immense. Just last year, a survey of young people found that around 60% of 11-16-year-olds felt pressured to look ‘perfect’ on social media.

And research from the Mental Health Foundation shows that around 30% of adults have felt so stressed by their body image and appearance that they’ve felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

This is where perfectly normal concerns about appearance can become far more serious, with negative thoughts and feeling having a much bigger impact on one’s life – potentially leading to anxiety, depression or an eating disorder.

If you’re spending lots of time worrying about your body, comparing how you look with others, or putting a lot of effort into concealing flaws, it’s important to know that you’re not alone; there is plenty of help available to improve your mental well-being.

The first thing to do is book an appointment with your GP. We are best placed to talk to you about your symptoms and discuss the support available.

Alternatively, if you’re aged 16 and over and registered with a Southwark GP, you can call the free NHS Talking Therapies service on 020 3228 2194. The team will contact you to arrange a consultation with one of its therapists.

Young people aged 11-19 years-old can visit www.kooth.com – an online counselling service for confidential and anonymous mental health and emotional wellbeing support, 365 days a year.

If, however, you are experiencing mental distress and need urgent help, call the 24-hour crisis line on 0800 731 2864, or go to a hospital’s A&E desk and ask to see the psychiatrist on duty.

For more information about the range of mental health support services available in Southwark, please visit our website: www.southwarkccg.nhs.uk

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13-19 May 2019. The theme for 2019 is body image – how we think and feel about our bodies. Find out more by visiting: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

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