Media coverage may be the dominant reason why there are a growing amount of teens feeling insecure and struggling with body size and appearance problems in Ireland.
Mental Health Week 2017 takes place from 9th-14th October encompassing World Mental Health Day on the 10th October. Mental health is something the Irish Government needs to take more seriously. This is a huge problem in Ireland at the moment and its something that we should not be keeping in the shadows.
Magazines are rife with covers and pages featuring thin, attractive models. Body image can be complicated. It is usually defined as the way you feel when you look in the mirror or how you feel about your body. A person can have a positive or a negative body image and there may be also times when a person’s body image fluctuates somewhere between the two.
Every day, people are bombarded with images from the media industry, these images can challenge us on how we feel about ourselves. Magazines, in particular, have images that have been heavily photoshopped and feature bodies that are unobtainable by anyone. Not even the models used in these photo shoots look like their photoshopped selves in real life.
We are overexposed to perfection from billboards of models, reality stars on TV or even going to your local supermarket and looking at the magazine section that has stacks of airbrushed models on the covers. There have been health magazines, multiple adverts worldwide that have been banned and I feel like we are progressing in how much power the media has. The Government should enforce a law that all altered advertisements and images must indicate that they have been altered by means of a symbol and text, because of the negative impact of such images on teenagers’ body image.
‘The most recent statistics in Ireland on body image is from Dáil Na nÓg’ – Francis Fitzgerald, former Minister for Justice and Equality. How we see it: Survey on Young People’s Body Image, 77% of Irish adolescents ranked body image as being important to them. 57% of the young people surveyed expressed some level of satisfaction with their body image, which means 43% were dissatisfied. That is almost half the amount of teenagers surveyed that were unhappy.
Now here’s where we get to the real issues. Are we buying insecurities? Is your daughter buying insecurities? There has been a huge rise in makeup sales, cosmetic surgery, but one of the worst things to have risen in Ireland is eating disorders. Recently the age at which people start developing an eating disorder has fallen. Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, has found that the average age of onset of anorexia nervosa has dropped from 15-24 to 14-19.
Bodywhys also found that email support requests increased by 57% last year, but online support is not just being used by people to make contact for the first time. The Department of Health & Children estimates there is up to 200,000 people in Ireland affected by eating disorders.
So we must ask ourselves what we can do about this?
Eating disorders therapist Emma Murphy suggests how a simple trip to the newsagents or accessing social media affects most of her clients.
”We are being constantly bombarded by these false images, telling you how you should look, when the models and celebrities themselves don’t even look like that? What might you be better spending your money on? And I don’t mean an expensive day/night cream, or Botox. I would never definitively state that the media can directly cause eating disorders, but I can say that they contribute a lot to low self-esteem, poor body image, body image dysmorphia and low self-worth. I know, because I see it every day in my clients. Magazines cost you money, emotional energy, self-esteem. You have the option to not buy into insecurity so try not to buy into it anymore. The media is a 53 billion dollar industry it relies on women feeling insecure.”
The media is a 53 billion dollar industry it relies on women feeling insecure.
Emma also suggested ways on dealing with social media addiction and how to not triggered by the media trying to market unattainable standards. ‘Take a break from social media you’re getting sucked into a rabbit hole of marketing which won’t make you feel good about yourself. Whoever you follow you’ll eventually come across negative media marketing living in a retweets and likes era. People don’t properly check the credentials of account they are following’’ ‘Teens in not only Ireland but all over the world are looking to aspire to become something that isn’t real.’’ “Check the small text and take a detox from social media it will help immensely.”
With trolls, bad media coverage and airbrushed models online, it is clear to see how much impact they are having and the extremity that events like this are having on them. It’s scary really.
BodyWhys.ie is a great website. BodyWhys is the national voluntary organisation supporting people affected by eating disorders. Their LoCall helpline is 1890 200 444.
Here is a link to find out about events hosted by BodyWhys over the next few months.