Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) is an increasingly popular initiative designed to bring awareness to mental ill health in our society.

This year’s MHAW took place 13th-17th May and the theme was body image. Body image is a complex psychological construct but, simply put, it encompasses how we think and feel about our bodies. We are all affected by ‘body image’ to a certain degree but the extent to which it manifests itself in our behaviours differs across individuals.

A number of activities have been running this week, including a fascinating talk by Dr Ana Javornik from Newcastle University on the effect of ‘augmented reality’ on self-esteem. We also held an assembly on body image showcasing the work on confidence completed by
Year 8 in PSHE. Our pastoral team ran a mini social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter, providing daily top tips on how to promote a healthy body image which could be seen on display screens in School throughout the week.

On Wednesday, Nurse Wilson and our counsellor Miss Stewart held a stall at lunchtime which was a hit with girls who crowded around the tables to take part in various interactive activities. One particularly popular feature was a gallery of staff images – before and after they had been cleverly doctored (by Nurse Wilson) using a Snapchat filter. This was created to demonstrate the way in which social media does not always show accurate images of others, which can then affect the way we perceive ourselves.

We were grateful to Dr Ana Javornik for returning to NHSG specifically to join our MHAW stall and she led discussions around the use of filters, and their impact on self-esteem and body image. Dr Javornik remarked that the girls raised some very interesting and insightful points regarding their understanding of body image.

Girls were also invited to answer questions such as ‘How important is it to look good?’ and ‘Is body image everything?’ to provoke deeper thinking on this topic. Some even tried Nurse Wilson’s special ‘self-worth scales’ which did not concern weight, but identified what girls were made up of, which led to pleasing responses such as enthusiasm, care, loudness and fun!

There were a lot of body-positive comments on how girls feel about themselves.

Meanwhile Miss Bowman and Miss Hefford ran a ‘What Can Your Body Do?’ exhibition where girls showed off their wonderful talents such as flexibility, wiggling eyes, ears or tongues and amazing body contortions! Mrs Edmonds was also on-hand to demonstrate the Positive app and how this online platform can be used to help track self-esteem and a positive mindset. Not all online media is bad for body image!

Overall, the week served as a great reminder that, with the correct support, we can reduce and in some cases, reverse, the effects of ill mental health in our community.


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