PTSD affects ‘one in 13 by age of 18’

One in 13 young people in England and Wales experiences post-traumatic stress disorder by the age of 18, the first research of its kind suggests.

A study of more than 2,000 18-year-olds found nearly a third had experienced trauma in childhood.

And a quarter of these then developed PTSD, which can cause insomnia, flashbacks and feelings of isolation.

Researchers say, with many young people not receiving the support they need, the study should be a “wake-up call”.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, found slightly more than half of those who had had PTSD – an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events – had also experienced a major depressive episode and one in five had attempted suicide.

But only the same proportion – one in five – had been seen by a mental health professional in the past year.

Lead researcher Dr Stephanie Lewis, a Medical Research Council-funded researcher at the King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, said: “Providing effective treatments early on could prevent mental health problems continuing into adulthood.”

Flo Sharman, 20, had a breakdown at the age of eight that left her housebound.

But it was only when she was 16 that neurologists concluded that breakdown was linked to something that had happened to her as a baby.

At four months old, Flo had a life-saving operation to remove parts of her stomach – to treat her serious acid reflux, which affected her ability to breathe.

The condition had led to her needing to be resuscitated on many occasions, Flo said.

Doctors now believe her breakdown was caused by PTSD, a delayed reaction to the trauma she experienced as a baby, even though she has no conscious memory of what happened.

She says: “When I had that life-saving surgery and the traumatic experiences in hospital, my parents weren’t told you could have post-traumatic stress disorder because of the surgery and the time in hospital.

“They had no idea that this mental breakdown would happen. It was a real shock.”

Flo still has PTSD, which she says many people wrongly think affects only those in the armed forces.

“People don’t really associate PTSD with a young child – and that has to change,” she adds.

‘Falling through the gaps’

Participants in the study were judged to have had PTSD only if they had had all of the following symptoms for at least a month:

  • reliving traumatic events through distressing memories or nightmares
  • avoiding anything reminding them of their trauma
  • feelings of guilt, isolation or detachment
  • irritability, impulsivity or difficulty concentrating

Experiences of childhood trauma included assault, sexual assault, injury or an event that had affected someone they knew but they had not directly witnessed.

Senior researcher Prof Andrea Danese, from the King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, said: “Our findings should serve as a wake-up call.

“Childhood trauma is a public-health concern – yet trauma-related disorders often go unnoticed.

“Young people with PTSD are falling through the gaps in care and there is a pressing need for better access to mental health services.”

What is PTSD?

  • Being caught up in a traumatic event that is overwhelming, frightening and life-threatening can lead to PTSD
  • The symptoms usually start within a few weeks of the trauma but they can start later
  • After the traumatic event, people can feel grief-stricken, depressed, anxious, guilty and angry
  • People may have flashbacks and nightmares
  • People may be ‘on guard’ – staying alert all the time
  • Physical symptoms can be aches and pains, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeats, headaches, feelings of panic and fear, depression
  • People may start drinking too much alcohol or using drugs (including painkillers)

Source: Royal College of Psychiatrists

Prof Danese said people should not be “alarmed” by the study’s findings and it was normal to have some psychological symptoms after trauma.

In the “vast majority” of cases, these symptoms would recede in a matter of days or weeks, he said.

But if children and young people had them for over a month, parents should seek help from their GP.

PTSD can be successfully treated – even when it develops many years after a traumatic event – with treatments including talking therapies and antidepressants.

Dr Tim Dalgleish, from the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the research, said the results of the “landmark study” were “sobering”.

“Of particular concern is the relatively small proportion of affected youth who go on to access formal support or mental health services and the findings are a further wake-up call that service provision in the UK for children and adolescents dealing with the aftermath of trauma is woefully inadequate,” he said.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “The NHS Long Term Plan has committed to prioritising increasing the funding for children and young people’s mental health services faster than all other funding.

“As a result, 345,000 more children and young people have access to mental health services and support in schools and colleges, young adults will receive better support until the age of 25 and crisis care will be provided through NHS 111, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Mel B is watching flashing lights to help with trauma. But does EMDR therapy really work?

The singer is trying it, and while it was once controversial, it now has NHS approval. What is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, and how does it compare to CBT?

In late 2016, Ben had a breakdown, triggered by someone getting too close to him on a crowded train. It brought on vivid flashbacks of a severe childhood trauma 30 years ago. Until then he had lived a successful life – he had done well at school, had a good career and was married with a family. Referred to a trauma clinic at his local hospital, Ben started a psychotherapy treatment, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) earlier this year. It sounded, he says: “like witchcraft. How can this possibly work? They sit you in front of flashing lights and it makes you better? It sounds like alchemy.”

EMDR was recently highlighted by the pop singer Mel B, who is said to be undergoing the therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Talking about her diagnosis, a condition she had been using sex and alcohol to self-treat, she said: “I am still struggling but if I can shine a light on the issue of pain, PTSD and the things men and women do to mask it, I will do”. Of the EMDR, she said: “So far, it’s really helping me.”

EMDR works, says Robin Logie, clinical psychologist and former president of the EMDR Association, by helping the brain to process traumatic memories – it is mainly used as a treatment for PTSD, but can be used for depression, anxiety, addiction and phobias. “The way we do that is to get the person to think about a particular moment. For example, with a road traffic accident – it could be the moment just before you’re hit. We ask them to describe what negative belief they have about themselves.” It could be something like: ‘I’m not safe.’” We ask what emotion seems to go with that and where they feel it in their body.”

While the person is doing all this, they are asked to move their eyes from side to side – this could be by following the therapist’s finger, or following flashing lights. It can also be done by holding a device in each hand, which pulses alternately. Each set could be repeated 20 or 30 times in each session. “The memory starts to become less distressing,” he says. “It transforms it from a memory that previously made you feel anxious or scared, into a memory that is like any other that wouldn’t normally produce an emotional response. People start to be more rational about it: ‘I wasn’t in a safe situation then, but I’m safe now.’”

In the early stages of treatment, says Ben: “It was like being in the event. It’s like a kind of time travel. The whole EMDR process is like a controlled flashback – you’re aware that you’re here and now, but you also feel like you’re in the body from then and re-experiencing as then. I was not prepared for the physical, visceral nature of reliving the experience. I would be seeing things, smelling things. I felt this pressure across my front and it was unnerving.”

He says he felt like a ventriloquist’s dummy “because the words I was using to describe [my experiences] were children’s words. It was like the child, the person who experienced the trauma, was using me as a mouthpiece.”

As the treatment went on, the memories became more and more vivid and detailed. It has, unsurprisingly, been a difficult process to go through, and Ben’s mental health seemed to get worse before it started to get better. He is still going through treatment. “It’s a process I have found genuinely transformative,” he says.

EMDR was discovered by accident in the late 80s by an American psychologist, Francine Shapiro, who noticed that her eye movements, while looking at things on a walk through a park, appeared to reduce negative emotions. It used to be considered controversial but that is now an outdated view, says Melanie Temple, consultant psychiatrist and EMDR consultant (it is approved for use by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).

One of the problems for EMDR is that nobody can explain exactly how it works – one theory is that the eye movements mimic the rapid-eye-movement phase of sleep, which is when the day’s events are processed. “We understand it works on the information-processing models within the brain, but we don’t know exactly how,” says Temple. “But then we don’t know exactly how cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) works. It’s really the same for all therapies.”

Not everyone is ready for EMDR. “If someone has had a simple one-off trauma, such as an accident, in their adult life, you don’t need to do a lot of preparation, but we also work with people who have multiple traumas going back to early childhood,” says Logie. “With people like that you have to do more preparation and the therapy will last longer.” Preparing someone to undergo EMDR can include teaching them relaxation techniques, and strengthening the support structures in their lives.

If not properly used, says Claudia Herbert, clinical psychologist and managing director of the Oxford Development Centre and author of Overcoming Traumatic Stress: “Any type of therapy can be re-traumatising. It has to be used by someone who is properly trained and experienced to know when to use it and not to use it.” It wouldn’t be used with someone who was dissociated – one symptom of PTSD – where they are not “grounded” in their body, or feel disoriented. “We would have to work with the dissociation first before we work with EMDR.”

For Katherine Gilmartin, an artist and family mental health activist, diagnosed with complex PTSD as a result of childhood abuse, EMDR couldn’t begin immediately. “I was asked to think of somewhere I’d felt safe in the past. There was nothing,” she says. “So I had to make one.” She says EMDR, which she had once a week for more than six months, was “physically exhausting. The heightened experience of being in those traumatic memories whirls everything up and nightmares occur.”

Was it difficult to go through? “Yes, but I felt in control [when] ordinarily I didn’t feel in control. It is hard work and [you have to be] open to it. It’s not a fix-all and you have to trust the person you are doing it with.” For her, it has made an improvement. “Different places, or really silly things, which could be quite triggering are no longer a problem. I’m able to recognise and understand my feelings around whatever the thing is.” These tend to be things she recognises from childhood – once, she was in a department store and saw a houseplant she hadn’t seen for decades. “I was taken right back to being 10. I couldn’t be anywhere near it and I walked out of the shop.” That sort of thing, she says, wouldn’t happen now.

Temple used to work for the military where EMDR is a standard therapy for people suffering PTSD; she now practises it for the NHS. Where EMDR may have the edge, she says, is that it: “Suits a lot of people because unlike CBT [which is also offered as treatment for trauma], it doesn’t have homework. EMDR is very well-established now [and is] equally offered alongside trauma-focused CBT because one size doesn’t fit all. If one doesn’t suit them, then they can use something different, so they don’t feel that they’re not treatable.”

Although it can be powerful and effective, people shouldn’t expect a magical quick fix, she says. Ben has had more than 30 sessions and does not know when he will stop. “It’s had a hugely beneficial effect,” he says. Although the two or three days after each session are, he says, a “write-off”, he has been able to go back to work part-time. “I have moved from being this ventriloquist’s dummy for the child inside, to being an adult looking at what was happening; being really sad and upset and angry about it, but having a natural emotional reaction, rather than feeling the distress of it happening to me.”

Tips for helping young children with perfectionism

There’s a perception in our society that perfectionism is a good thing, akin to ‘being perfect’; That it’s something to strive for or to drop into conversation in job interviews… Yet the reality is quite different. Perfectionism leads people to place unreasonably and often unrealistically high expectations on themselves, which, when inevitably unmet, leads to frustration and self-blame.

Of course, this can be very unsettling to witness in young children and it can be hard for parents and educators to know how best to help. Perhaps you have a young child who refuses to draw because their drawings don’t look exactly like those of an adult artist. Or maybe you work with a child who has become distressed by a small mistake in their school work and who has insisted on starting the whole project again (while the rest of the class moves on…)

Of course the earlier we can help children change unhealthy habits, the better. So let’s look at a few tips for how we might address this in young children.

Firstly, be mindful of how you use praise. There are two ways in which we tend to praise children. ‘Content’ praise often draws attention to the end product, for example, “What a beautiful picture”, or,“That’s a fantastic block tower”. In contrast, process praise focuses on how the child got there. When we use process praise, we draw attention to their good ideas, problem solving approaches, effort, persistence, concentration and enthusiasm. While it’s helpful for all children to experience more process praise than content praise, this is particularly true for children with perfectionistic traits. This allows us to draw the focus away from how impressive the end result might (or should) be and instead highlight the importance of having a go and learning along the way.

For example, rather than saying, ‘That’s a fantastic drawing of a bus! You’re an amazing artist – what were you worried about?’, it might be more helpful to say something like, ‘It’s great to see you having a go at drawing. I love watching you try new things’. Of course, most of the time we needn’t praise children at all. Saying simply, ‘Drawing is fun isn’t it?’ is often enough to provide children with that important sense of connection.

Secondly, model making mistakes. Our abilities as adults generally exceed those of our children. Children may see us as perfect and strive to be the same. It’s helpful for little ones to see that we mistakes too, and importantly to also learn through our modelling how mistakes can be handled.

Look for (or create!) opportunities to do this. When you’ve been asked to bring over the pencils to the table, you could bring the scissors instead and say, ‘Oops, my mistake. Not to worry. I’ll just go back and swap these over.’ Or, perhaps you could draw alongside your child and deliberately keep from drawing inside the lines, commenting as you go, ‘I love drawing with you’. By doing so, you model for your child that mistakes are okay, that they needn’t hamper your enjoyment of a task and importantly, that the end result isn’t all that matters.

Thirdly, consider how you react when your child behaves in an ‘imperfect’ way. Do you respond calmly when your little one accidentally spills cereal all over the breakfast table or do you tend to overreact? It’s important when we’re teaching our children that they needn’t be perfect, that our responses back this up. By accepting our children as they are – wonderful, ‘good enough’ young learners – we teach them to do the same.

And that’s so much better than perfect.

Tips for helping young children with perfectionism

Mental Health Awareness Week: The five things men don’t talk about enough

“What’s it like being a man in 2019?”

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, BBC Sport got five men to sit down together and discuss their issues with masculinity, depression, body image and expectations.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, suicide remains the biggest killer in men between 15 and 35 in the UK.

In a three-part series, Team GB sprinter James Ellington, Scottish footballer David Cox, Love Island star Josh Denzel and freestyle footballer Olumide Durojaiye open up about the issues they have faced and how they have dealt with them.

James broke his leg in a motorbike accident in 2017, forcing him to withdraw from Team GB. David, who plays as a striker for Cowdenbeath, has suffered with mental health issues throughout his career.

Olu was released at 18 by Tottenham Hotspur and has since played in Scotland as well as in the English non-league game – where he plays for Woking; he is now a football freestyler. Josh Denzel starred in series four of Love Island, coming third.

The episodes, hosted by Ben Zand, will be released throughout this week but, before you watch, here are five poignant takeaways from the series.

Ben Zand hosting man up
The first episode of Man Up is available on BBC Sport’s YouTube channel

55% of men aged 18-24 feel as if crying makes them less masculine (YouGov 2018).

“You don’t want to be weaker than the man next to you,” says Olu. “I cover my emotions with laughter, joking around being a fool.”

When Ben asks “Would you speak to your dad about how you’re feeling?” each person at the table responds with a strong “no”.

David says: “Approaching your dad with something like that – he’s the person you want to look the strongest in front of.”

Josh adds: “I’m sure if I went to my dad with a problem and I was emotional, he would have been fine with it but I’d just look at him and be like ‘no way’.”

James says: “Sometimes you can get stuck in a rut where you suppress your emotion for so long that it becomes hard to release. Showing emotion and crying is actually a strength.”

Olumide Durojaiye
Olumide Durojaiye plays for Woking

42% of men in heterosexual relationships think they should earn more than their partner (YouGov 2018).

“It makes me feel good to be able to provide,” says Josh.

“I want to pay for the food, I want to be the alpha and be able to look after you.”

Olu says: “I saw my dad being the main breadwinner, working day and night, travelling up and down the country and I needed to be that. I couldn’t be the man that a woman looks at and thinks: ‘He’s a bum.’

“I needed to make money somehow because I needed to be that ‘man’ role that I thought my partner needed.”

David adds: “It’s more how people perceive you. What are they on the outside thinking, looking in?”

Josh Denzel
Josh came third in Love Island alongside Kaz Crossley

How many times do you scroll through Instagram and start comparing yourself to the guy with a six pack standing on a beach in Bali with his Lamborghini in the background?

But is any of it real?

“I was in Monaco a few years ago for a competition and, although I had a really good time, most of it was spent in my room on my own,” says James.

“I put an Instagram post out and everyone was commenting like ‘woah, you must be having a great time’.”

Social media can mask what a person is actually feeling.

According to the 2017-18 community life survey, men (27%) are more likely than women (20%) to say they never feel lonely.

As a social media influencer, Josh admits: “With the notoriety, there is a pressure to kind of live that lifestyle. I’m guilty of it massively. You end up doing things purely for gratification.

“I know for a fact that if the sun’s over there with the beach over here and my abs are looking sick, I know when the likes start rolling in from certain people and you hit a certain number – that gives me gratification.

“That was before I had a big following. You get in your feelings about it, the more followers you have, the more people that judge and the more people that comment.”

David Cox

“Just to be happy and have everyone around you happy – I think that should be the only expectation as a man,” says Olu.

James says: “We should be expected to be a bit more open and free with our emotions and not be afraid that being in touch with our feelings is emasculating – it’ll make society much better.”

David adds: “I think what should be expected is that people shouldn’t make you feel like you have to be masculine and can’t talk about things.

“Look at the stats and look at what’s happening. Men should be able to speak out.”

James Ellington
James Ellington won gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2016 European Championships

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focused particularly on body image, with the Mental Health Foundation releasing these stark statistics:

  • Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.
  • Just over one third of adults said they had felt anxious (34%) or depressed (35%) because of their body.
  • One in eight (13%) adults experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image.

Reality TV shows such as Love Island have been criticised for triggering body image issues in young people.

Josh, who came third last year, says: “I remember watching the first three seasons and everyone’s in mad shape – the type you follow on Instagram. Then I get the call that I’m going into the villa in six weeks.

“I lived in the gym before I went in and even with that I remember looking in the mirror before I went in and, even though I was shredded, I still didn’t want to go in.

“Even now, there’s nothing worse than being on the beach, you can see a guy with an amazing six-pack walking along and you look down at yourself and feel so emasculated.”

Even Olu, when he was training as a footballer, struggled with how he looked.

“I started to hate myself,” he says.

“I heard a fan shout when I was playing a couple years ago ‘Oi, fat boy, pull your socks up’.

“All I thought was ‘flipping hell, I’m not good enough, my body’s horrible’ – I just hated it.”

Eight Ways to Bring Mindfulness into Your Family

They can be some of the most frustrating and embarrassing child behaviors—temper tantrums, lashing out at others, impatience, and short attention spans. So what can you do about them? Research has found that having a sense of mindfulness, or the ability to be present and think before reacting, can provide children with the skills they need to better understand their feelings, to pay more attention and to make wiser decisions.
Mindfulness also means paying attention to the moment without judgment and intentionally pausing before reacting. Mindfulness is a wonderful way to help children manage their emotions, reduce their stress, improve their academics, and even develop greater empathy. The hidden benefit of practicing mindfulness with your family is that as parents you get to reap the benefits too. Here are eight easy ways to get started:
1. Take on a Family Mindfulness Challenge: When you model the mindfulness you want to see in your children, they understand it on a whole new level. So, give it a try. You can sit on a chair or floor with your back straight but not tense. Close your eyes and use your other senses, like listening. A simple minute of mindful breathing is one great way to start. There are also free apps and websites available to help guide your practice, which can be great for beginners.
2. Choose a “Mindfulness Corner”: It could be in a bedroom or main area. Make it special and uncluttered. You can have everyone in your family put a personal symbol, like a pillow, photo or blanket, in the middle of the room so it becomes like a “zone of peace” that is there at any time. Designating a physical location literally “holds the space” for mindfulness to become a regular family habit, much like sitting down together to eat a meal.
3. Set a Time: Just like athletes schedule practice sessions to improve their skills, having a designated mindfulness time helps make it a go-to habit. Before bed is a wonderful time, as the mindfulness practice relaxes everyone into a more peaceful state. Some families use a special chime to take turns bringing everyone together. As your family gets used to practicing mindfulness, the special space in your home can serve as a good place to go when anyone in the family needs to take a break from anger, or frustration. If you practice moments of calm, it makes going to that space in moments of stress easier.
4. Have Mindful Mornings: Getting out the door for school is stressful. Consider ways to de-stress, like waking up a little earlier for some quiet time, or encouraging your children to help (as they can) to pack their lunches the night before. Dr. Christine Carter of Greater Good Science Center prepares for the morning rush by placing sticky notes on her fridge. They are reminders to NOTICE emotions, NAME the emotion, ACCEPT what is going on, and BREATHE (pausing to take a few deep breaths) before jumping into action.
5. Practice Mindfulness around the Table: Remember how good it feels to express gratitude at the Thanksgiving table? What if you could do this once a week? Schedule a time where everyone talks about what they are grateful for in their life and something they appreciate about others at the table. This is all about being in the moment and taking time to notice the good stuff (there’s always good stuff, even if it’s just a hot meal or the smile on your child’s face!). It will uplift everyone there.
6. Designate Mindful Boundaries: Having established boundaries promotes a feeling of consistency and safety. They provide a perimeter, within which children can exercise their autonomy. If the boundaries are mindfully thought out in advance, then there is less reason for you to constantly say no. It’s equally important to create situations where your child can experience autonomy (e.g., “You can be the leader on the hike.”). In Mindful Discipline, Dr. Shauna Shapiro makes the case that children need both boundaries and autonomy. Shapiro asserts that children need a degree of autonomy to develop a sense of responsibility over their lives. They also need clear boundaries, which gives them a sense of safety, and a clear idea of who is the parent and who is the child. The author suggests that you ask yourself, “What is most needed in this moment? Is it space, autonomy, or a boundary? Or maybe it’s some of each: you can run around the park, but here’s a line you can’t cross—a non-negotiable line.”
7. Be Mindful with Discipline: There’s no getting around it – discipline is part of parenting. Why not address it mindfully? If you see discipline as teaching, rather than confrontation, the first step is pausing enough to be mindful of what your child is feeling. In No-Drama Discipline, Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Bryson suggest:
Communicate comfort so your child feels safe to open up. Get down to your child’s eye level, and put your hand on his arm or hug to give him a sense of reassurance. You can also tell him, “It’s hard, isn’t it? Can you tell me about it?”
Validate and say something like, “If I were in your shoes, at the same age, I might feel the same way.”
Listen. Rather than lecture, breathe.
Reflect. Say back what you hear like, “I understand that you’re upset because you don’t want to go to bed right now.”
Redirect. After you understand what was happening internally to your child, you can determine what you want to teach and how best to do it. For example, you may want to say, “If you get your rest now you won’t feel tired at school tomorrow. Would you like to read one more book and then we can tuck you in so you can go to bed?”
8. Share Your Experiences: The more you and your child practice mindfulness, the more natural it becomes. You will draw on it in all aspects of life. If you used mindfulness when you felt your emotions rising, (in traffic, at the office, with friends), and you were able to pause before reacting, share that experience with your child. Encourage her/him to do the same. You will inspire one another in ways you might not even imagine.

Mental Health Awareness Week – The Mental Health Foundation

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13-19 May 2019. The theme this year is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.


‘Body image’ is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting, more generally, the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and wellbeing.

How does body image affect mental health?

Having body image concerns is a relatively common experience and is not a mental health problem in and of itself; however, it can be a risk factor for mental health problems. Research has found that higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders.

Higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders.

Conversely, body satisfaction and appreciation has been linked to better overall wellbeing and fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours. Though feeling unsatisfied with our bodies and appearance is often more common among young women, body image concerns are relevant from childhood through to later life and affect both women and men.

Body satisfaction and appreciation has been linked to better overall wellbeing and fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours.

What causes body image concerns?

The way in which our experiences and environment affect our body image will be different for everyone. However, overall, the research suggests that body image can be influenced by:

our relationships with our family and friends

how our family and peers feel and speak about bodies and appearance

exposure to images of idealised or unrealistic bodies through media or social media

pressure to look a certain way or to match an ‘ideal’ body type

There are further issues relevant to body image and mental health that are specific to certain factors and experiences, such as:

long-term health conditions

cultural differences around body ideals

gender and sexuality

The above are often linked to other societal factors and discrimination.

New body image statistics

New online surveys were conducted by the Mental Health Foundation with YouGov in March 2019 of 4,505 UK adults 18+ and 1,118 GB teenagers (aged 13-19). The results highlighted that:

One in five adults (20%) felt shame, just over one third (34%) felt down or low, and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year.

Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.

Just over one third of adults said they had ever felt anxious (34%) or depressed (35%) because of their body image.


One in eight (13%) adults experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image.

Just over one in five adults (21%) said images used in advertising had caused them to worry about their body image.

Just over one in five adults (22%) and 40% of teenagers said images on social media caused them to worry about their body image.

What can we do?

Clearly action is needed to build and promote positive body image and support good mental health and wellbeing in relation to our bodies. Everyone has a right to feel comfortable and confident in their own bodies and our report highlights key recommendations for:

Effective regulation of how body image is portrayed.

The need for commitment from social media companies to play a key role in promoting body kindness.

Taking a public health approach to body image by training frontline health and education staff.

Individually being more aware of how we can take care of ourselves and others in relation to body image.

Policy recommendations

Effective regulation of how body image is portrayed

The Online Harms White Paper should address harms relating to the promotion of unhelpful or idealised body image online, beyond content related to eating disorders. An improved practice on how social media platforms promote unhealthy imaging should be enforced by the new independent regulator.

The Advertising Standards Authority should consider pre-vetting high-reach broadcast adverts from high-risk industries – such as cosmetic surgery companies and weight-loss products and services – to ensure all advertising abides by its codes. It should also make greater use of its ability to proactively instigate investigations.

Industry responsibility to promote body kindness

Social media companies should sign the Be Real Campaign’s Body Image Pledge and investigate new ways of using their platforms to promote positive body image and to ensure that a diversity of body types is presented positively to their users.


Social media companies should have clear systems for users to report bullying and discrimination and targets for action to be taken. They should give users greater control over the content they see in an accessible way.

Public health and education approaches to body image

Training for frontline health practitioners and the early years childcare workforce should include information about how parents and carers can, from a very early age, positively influence their children’s feelings about their bodies through their behaviours and attitudes.

Children and adults in distress should receive fast and empathetic support when they need it, regardless of where they live in the country.

Public campaigns on nutrition and obesity should avoid the potential to create stigma and indirectly contribute to appearance-based bullying. They should focus on healthy eating and exercise for all members of the population, regardless of weight.

A co-produced body image and media literacy toolkit should be a compulsory element of what children learn in schools. This should include the development of a charter for achieving a healthy and positive body image.

Tips for individuals

Individually being more aware of steps we can take for ourselves and others.

If your body image is a significant cause of stress, or if you’re being bullied about how your body looks, consider talking to a friend, a trusted adult or a health professional.

Spring-clean your apps on your smartphone.

Notice the people and accounts you’re following on social media and be mindful of how you feel about your own body and appearance when you look at them.

If you see an advert in a magazine, on television or online that you think presents an unhealthy body image as aspirational, you can complain to the Advertising Standards Authority.

At home, parents and carers can lead by example, by modelling positive behaviour around body image, eating healthily and staying active.

In our daily lives, we can all be more aware of the ways in which we speak about our own and other people’s bodies in casual conversations with friends and family.


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Mental health awareness week – a challenge!


From 13-19 May The Mental Health Foundation will be running a body image challenge.

It’s easy to take part and they would love to have your support.

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.Use the hashtags #BeBodyKind and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.

Tag @harmlessUK, @tomorrowprojectUK @mentalhealthfoundation on Instagram and Facebook.

@LifevsSuicide @mentalhealth on Twitter.

What a wonderful way to remind ourselves to love the skin we are in.

We can’t wait to see your photos

The Harmless team x

Louis Theroux Investigates Depression, Anxiety And Psychosis In New Mums

The BBC has announced that award-winning filmmaker Louis Theroux will return to the UK to document the stories of women who have been diagnosed with a range of serious conditions – including depression, anxiety and psychosis – triggered by birth or the strains of motherhood. Louis will follow patients and their families in hospital and at home, exploring what lies behind their crises and discovering the immense challenge in caring for people at an incredibly vulnerable time in their lives.
Maternal mental health is a huge issue and one that is more than deserving of Louis’ and our attention. As many as one in five women develop a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after the birth of their baby according to a 2017 report by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (RCOG), which can range from anxiety, low mood, OCD, body image issues, eating disorders and depression to psychosis and suicide.
Pregnancy, childbirth and the mental health conditions that can follow can be frightening, intense and debilitating and as the RCOG explains, “the pain this causes women and their families, the negative impact on their health and wellbeing, and the economic costs to individuals, the NHS and the nation are considerable.”
Did you know:
• Around one-quarter of all maternal deaths between six weeks and a year after childbirth are related to mental health problems (MBRRACE-UK)
• In almost half of the UK, pregnant women and new mothers have no access to specialist community maternal mental health services (Maternal Mental Health Alliance)
• Maternal mental health problems cost the UK £8.1bn per year (London School of Economics and Centre for Mental Health)
Maternal mental health is complex. There are sociocultural expectations that women should be thrilled at the prospect of becoming a mother and many just do not want to voice how they feel for fear of being judged.
And accessing help isn’t any easier. In the RCOG’s report, only 7% of women in the UK experiencing maternal mental health problems were referred to specialist support and around 40% of women waited over 4 weeks to be referred for mental health support, with some waiting over a year.
These statistics are, quite frankly, shocking. We know that patients waiting longer to access mental health services have poorer clinical outcomes and this is a problem that technology could be solving right now. If perinatal mental health problems are identified and addressed quickly and effectively, the serious and often life-changing human and economic consequences could be mitigated.
Technology is already rapidly changing the face of healthcare, and we’re seeing femtech (female technology) gain significant traction, which is beginning to enable women to manage their health and wellbeing on a more precise and personalized level than ever before.
As Maternal Mental Health Week draws to a close during Mental Health Awareness Month, despite the huge leaps we’re seeing in femtech and greater awareness of the impact of mental health problems during and after pregnancy, there is still a long way to go. Femtech might hold part of the solution, but we all have a responsibility to open up the conversation, break down the stigma and support women to be able to acknowledge and share their experiences of mental health at an exciting and challenging time in their lives.

Thank you Co-op Old Sawley for raising over £500

The Co-op and customers have raised over £500 for our cause so far!!! Every penny of this will provide life saving therapeutic support to people in need.
Did you know we are also part of the Co-op Local Community Fund?
The funding round started on Sunday 28th October 2018 and from this date Co-op members can choose Harmless to give their 1% to when they spend on selected own-brand products and services.
The funding period will run for 12 months until the 26 October 2019.
Pop into local east midlands Co-op to support our life saving service