Body Image and Mental Health

Part of Exiting the European Union (Transport) – in the House of Commons at 3:07 pm on 23rd July 2019.

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham 3:07 pm, 23rd July 2019

I begin by agreeing totally with Dr Cameron: the debate is important. Last week we had a debate on mental health; we have two this week, one here today and one in Westminster Hall on Thursday afternoon on the Mental Health Act 1983. That is good because the more we talk about mental health issues, the more we normalise them. The hon. Lady is right. I have been a Member of the House for more than 18 years, and it has changed. The more we talk, the better. She makes a very good point.

Ministers are going into the twilight zone at the moment; seeing whether they are going to come out of the reshuffle. I add my thanks to the Minister to those of my hon. Friend Paula Sherriff. The Minister has been a passionate advocate for mental health and she deeply cares about it. We know when a Minister gets it, and she does. I hope that she survives whatever happens over the next few days. The other thing that is unusual and does not get a great deal of publicity is the fact that she is prepared to work across party and across the House, and to listen to alternative viewpoints. I wish to put that on the record.

I pay tribute to the Mental Health Foundation for its excellent report. I know that the Minister was at the launch. I think it was the first time that body image and mental health had been brought together. The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow talked about eating disorders, and the stark facts that come out of the report should concern us all.

It is important to say that it is not just young people who are affected. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury said, 20% of the adult population in the UK feel ashamed of their body image and 34% feel down about it. In some cases, that will not lead to mental health problems, but in a lot of them it will. If people have anxiety about their body image, it leads to related conditions.

According to the report, 34% of young people feel upset about their body image and 31% feel ashamed of it. We cannot insulate young people from society—we should not even attempt to do so. Living in society can be difficult and challenging at times, and young people face the added pressure of social media.