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16 October 2014

Research shows British women 'depressed' by body image

Research shows British women 'depressed' by body image

More than 10 million British women "feel depressed" over their looks, according to new research on self-image released this week to coincide with Body Confidence week.

This poor self-image is found to be affecting everything from relationships to exercise and job interviews.

More than half of those surveyed feel powerless about society's obsessions with looks.

Is it any wonder, when we live in a world that promotes and celebrates an unrealistic idea of beauty? We're bombarded with concepts of beauty, self-worth and success through an endless stream of advertising, cinema and social media. Connects that are too often completely disconnected from the biblical narrative that says we're fearfully and wonderfully made by a god that loves us no matter what. A narrative that values integrity, compassion and hard work over thigh gaps, perfectly blow waved locks and flawless skin.

Sadly for too many women, destructive and false perceptions of their value become their reality. Often with devastating consequences - eating disorders, addiction, depression, self-harm and attempted suicide.

MP Caroline Nokes, who chairs a parliamentary group on body image, says: "Low body confidence is a critical public health issue".

This is made clear with recent figures. The UK has the highest rate of eating disorders and self-harm in Europe. One in four women will require treatment for depression at some time. And women are twice as likely to experience anxiety as men.

In the midst of this bleak reality, charities such as Mercy Ministries are stepping in to provide support and hope for young women struggling with self-destructive behaviour, which often stems from poor self-image.

Mercy Ministries seek to provide opportunities for women to experience God's unconditional love, forgiveness and life-transforming power in partnership with each young women's home church. Since 2006 Mercy Ministries have seen 170 women complete their residential programme where they address the root causes of issues women face, breaking the cycle of destruction by helping women find freedom and restoration through a biblical narrative that reflects the love and value God has for each of us.

Over the weekend Mercy Ministries held a reception to celebrate the courageous young women who have completed their programme. Many of their graduates attended and it was a real privilege and honour to meet with them and hear their stories. These girls were truly inspiring and a testament to the redemptive power of Christ. They exuded a confidence and beauty that comes from seeing ourselves reflected in God's mirror rather than the world's.

As we've seen in the recent research on self-image, the programme offered by Mercy Ministries is desperately needed in a society which has such a distorted perception of value and beauty. Mercy Ministries provide invaluable support in helping some of the broken young women facing hopelessness and despair.

You can visit the Mercy Ministries website to find out more about their work and how you can support them reach even more young women: www.mercyministries.co.uk.