This week is mental health awareness week, an initiative started by the Mental Health Foundation in 2001 to raise public awareness of mental health and wellbeing. The slogan ‘It’s okay not to be okay’ aims to break down the stigma of mental health by talking openly about the difficulties that people face. This year’s theme is body image, an important issue whatever our age or gender, as research found that 1 in 3 people have felt ashamed of their bodies which in turn has had a direct impact on their mental health.
Two years ago, I went with a few of the ‘Girlie Night In’ team to watch the film ‘Embrace’ by body image activist Taryn Brumfitt. The Body Image movement (BIM) believes that everyone has the right to love and embrace their body, regardless of shape, size, ethnicity or ability. It was a very powerful film from a female perspective, but of course body image can also affect men, which is why it is important to have these awareness weeks. Only a few weeks ago I was thrilled to read of how a young person who had been receiving treatment for anorexia had reached a point of being able to accept that anorexia is an illness and was now beginning the long road to recovery. It’s good to know that with charities like ‘Mind’ there is help and support.
Ensuring that people know that it is okay not to be okay is an important message when we are dealing with people who are experiencing mental health issues. Accepting people for who they are and what they look like can be somewhat challenging in a society that is obsessed with a person’s image.
The Bible of course offers a different view. In Genesis 1:27 we read that we are made in the image of God. “So God createdmankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
It is such a profound mystery that we are created in God’s image and likeness, whether we speak of the newly conceived child who is only a few microscopic cells in size or a frail person who is terminally ill. God creates each person out of love in accord with his desire that each would spend eternity in communion with him. In Psalm 139:14 we read, “ I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. Furthermore in 1 Samuel 16:17 “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Knowing that God loves us just the way we are no matter what our body shape is an important message to hold on to and to share.
And so as mental health awareness week draws to an end, it’s important to continue speaking about mental health in order to break down the stigma. Actively listening, reinforcing the message that it’s okay to say your not okay are all ways we can encourage people to BE themselves.
Perhaps the words of this poem simply entitled ‘ BE’ by anonymous will help us all simply BE who we are called to BE today.
BE confident enough to see who you are inside is more important than how you look outside. BE absolutely sure that, wherever you go, whatever you do, YOU ARE LOVED AND VALUED BY GOD.