‘Be yourself’ message to Norfolk school pupils amid body image pressures

Ellen Flower, a student from Taverham High, is a future leader with Nelson's Spirit and is working

Ellen Flower, a student from Taverham High, is a future leader with Nelson's Spirit and is working with the YMCA on the Be Real Campaign. She is pictured with Nicola Cushion of Nelson's Spirit (navy t shirt) and Charlie Smith of YMCA Norfolk (white top). - Credit: Archant

Young people at Norfolk schools are being urged not to put their health at risk by obsessing about body image, with fellow students helping to get the message across.

YMCA Norfolk is involved in the national Be Real campaign, which aims to change attitudes to body image.

Its goal is to help people put health above appearance and to be confident about their bodies.

Research by the campaign found almost a third of secondary school pupils isolate themselves to avoid activities because of low body confidence and more than half regularly worry about how they look.

One way the Be Real campaign is looking to get the message across is by enlisting the aid of students to help their peers.

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Taverham High School student Ellen Flower, 17, is a Be Real champion at her school, while Charlotte Jackson and Ella Sharrock have similar roles at Wymondham College and Norwich High School for Girls.

AS level student Miss Flower, who got involved through the Nelsonspirit Future Leaders programme, said young people felt pressured to look a certain way, fuelled by social media.

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She said: 'There's so much about your image on social media.

'Social media profiles are all about your image - giving yourself a brand and it's all about appearance. Celebrity culture doesn't help with that.

'What we are trying to show is that the way you look is just one part of who you are and what you do.

'A lot of what we are doing is raising awareness of what help there is. If people know where to go then that's half the battle won.'

Charlie Smith, YMCA Norfolk engagement officer, who runs sessions on body confidence om schools, said young people's mental health could be affected by a desire to conform to a certain unrealistic image.

She said: 'The campaign is about encouraging young people to speak about their body confidence and encouraging others to speak to their peers about it.

'Part of what Ellen is doing is as an ambassador to ensure students don't feel they cannot speak about it. It empowers Ellen and encourages young people to be aware of it and the impact it can have.'

Visit www.berealcampaign.co.uk for further details on the campaign.

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