I’m sure that most of you know, it’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2019. Organised by the Mental Health Foundation each year, the week is an chance to create a signal boost for mental health and support one another.
This year, the theme is body image, something that is very relevant in modern society, what with Instagram ‘models’ and magazines focusing on ideal ‘beach bodies’. Media in all forms has had a big part to play in mental health struggles concerning how people feel about their bodies. Whether it’s a magazine cover, TV advert, or Instagram, we are always seeing what a supposed ‘perfect’ body is. That leads to dangerous things such as comparison, people feeling insecure and hating their bodies, or worse, depression, eating disorders and even suicide in some cases. These are just a few examples of the how the body image battle affects people, of all ages and genders.
It’s reassuring, then, to see #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek trending on social media everyday this week and #BeBodyKind, this year’s main hashtag for the awareness week.
Unique for a Reason
I hate this perception that has developed over the years that there is a ‘perfect’ look. It’s heartbreaking to see some people trying to conform to a certain appearance. Be proud of who you are and your unique qualities. It’s important to treat your body with respect and be healthy and happy.
World Neurofibromatosis Awareness Day
Another very important awareness event this week is World Neurofibromatosis Awareness Day on Friday the 17th. As someone who has NF1, this is a cause close to my heart and I admire all the work that charities such as Nerve Tumours are doing. Despite this though, NF still needs more awareness, especially when it is actually more common than you think, yet not many people have heard of it. The latest statistics from Nerve Tumours show that 1 in 2500 have NF1 alone. Combined with the people affected by NF2, Schwannomatosis and Legius Syndrome, as well as family and friends of those with NF, that’s a lot of people affected by the condition across the world.
To do a quick recap, Neurofibromatosis is a genetic condition, known for causing nerve tumours (aka fibromas) to grow where they shouldn’t. For most people, it’s very mild, with NF affecting the skin, but there are more serious cases.
I was diagnosed when I was very little, with my parents noticing that I had café au lait marks (freckling, a bit like birthmarks) on my body and it has remained that way ever since. I also have freckling on my eyes too.
Body Image and Neurofibromatosis
I’m very lucky when it comes to my NF1 and I know that for people who suffer more seriously, there are body image struggles involved. I have felt the effect of it at times though.
I’m naturally very pale and used to get jealous of all those tanned Instagram stars on exotic beaches, when I’m covering myself in factor 50 during the summer as the sun makes cafe au lait marks darker and can make them grow. Now though, I don’t feel this way, as being healthy matters the most.
It’s great to see people like Adam Pearson and Arooj from Vogue Wonders (highly recommend watching her IPlayer documentary if you haven’t already) raising awareness for NF and showing that it’s important to just be yourself and not let conditions like NF hold you back.
If you’re struggling with body confidence, or know someone who is, I’ve shared some more advice and thoughts in this post.
Alternatively, if you have any questions about NF, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m always happy to have a chat and offer support, so feel free to drop me an email (email@example.com).
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