In a modern woman’s world there are many things that can cause low self-esteem. Social media is present in most young women’s lives and often represents their image in a public space. Although it is good to be able to have such an online presence, the pressure of maintaining a certain weight can be very dangerous for vulnerable young women. Instagram and dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr contribute to the ever-increasing gap between actual self and online self.
Jameela Jamil, known for her role in the popular Netflix series The Good Place, began an Instagram account after seeing people guessing the weights of the Kardashian women, called I Weigh. She did this to change the way that women thought about themselves and their achievements online. She began with a post where she measured herself in her achievements rather than in kilograms. The post inspired women to do the same and the outcome was outstanding; thousands of women replied on Instagram and Twitter with their own stories.
Beat, a charity that specialises in supporting those affected by eating disorders in Norfolk and Norwich, provided a statement about social media, celebrities and eating disorders. The Head of Communications Rebecca Willgress wrote: ‘eating disorders are caused by a combination of people’s genetic makeup and other factors in their life that may act as triggers. The appearance of celebrities and comments on social media will not be the single reason for someone developing an eating disorder but they may cause great distress to people already suffering or who are vulnerable.’
According to the Anorexia & Bulimia Care website , ‘Young people between the ages of 14 and 25 are most at risk’ and ‘the average age of onset Bulimia Nervosa is 18 or 19 years.’ As well as these figures, most eating disorders affect young women. These crucial times come at the same time as starting university for some young women. The combination of high expectations online and in real life alongside the added struggle of being in an unfamiliar space with people who you want to engage with is a metaphorical powder keg of problems that can easily spiral out of control.
This is just one of the myriads of mental health issues that university students face. As a society we should be prepared to educate ourselves on the causes, the treatments and the ways we can help those that are struggling. As well as this governments, organisations such as universities, workplaces and communities should all be providing as much support as possible for all types of mental health. Unfortunately, this is something that is often at the bottom of the priorities list.
Anyone worried about their own or someone else’s health can contact Beat’s Helpline free of charge 365 days a year, via phone, anonymous one-to-one webchat, email or social media messaging: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services/helplines