YMCA Bournemouth supports body image campaign after research shows half of young people are bullied about their looks

2nd March 2018

bullying statistic
We have thrown our support behind the Be Real Campaign after new YMCA research revealed today that half of young people have been bullied about the way they look, with two fifths of those experiencing this bullying at least once a week.

Most of the bullying focuses on weight and body shape, with 60% of young people admitting they tried to change their appearance after being bullied and 24% said they reduced the amount they ate or went on a diet. In some cases the effect was more severe with one in ten of those being bullied about their looks having suicidal thoughts and 9% saying they self-harmed as a result.

The research was done by YMCA England & Wales, which spoke to more than 1,000 young people aged 11 to 16 years old as part of its new report ‘In Your Face’, which is part of the charity’s Be Real Campaign with Dove.

Highlighting the devastating effects appearance-based bullying has on young people, the research also revealed that, contrary to popular belief, most young people experience this bullying in person (72%) and not online. A staggering 80% of those getting bullied about the way they look do so in school or college.

We run a wide range of services across Dorset and had an average of 317 young people accessing our youth projects every week during 2017 and 1118 families using our children centres in the same year. We are urging local schools to be at the forefront in tackling body image anxiety. It’s calling on schools to become a Be Real School by using the campaign’s free Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools, which has already been downloaded by over 700 schools and colleges.

Jackie Weeden, YMCA Bournemouth Executive Director, says:

“Bullying has always existed among young people, but this generation face increasing pressure to live up to unrealistic beauty ideals which they say come from celebrities, social media and the media.

“It’s crucial that we teach young people how to feel comfortable in their own body and that looking different isn’t a bad thing. Educating young people about the effects of bullying alongside body confidence will help to tackle this issue where it’s most prevalent, schools.

“We know from previous research that young people who have learned about body confidence at school feel better about their bodies. We want schools in the local area to use the Be Real Campaign’s Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools to help their pupils navigate this image obsessed society we live in.”

Michelle, a young person from our Chatterbox youth action project, describes her own experience of being bullied:

“At school I felt massively isolated by my peers because I was different physically and also because I was autistic. Just because I didn’t talk the same, look the same or wear the same things, I was an outcast. They made horrible comments about my weight and how I looked. I was given a nickname and I was punched every day by someone I knew was being bullied himself.

“Four years of bullying put me in a deeper depression. I comfort ate just to feel better. I found it hard to concentrate in class and couldn’t get to sleep at night because I was anxious about the next day. At one point I had to get my hair cut short, which I hated, after people repeatedly put gum in my hair.

“Being yourself is the most important thing. People who bully you are insecure and desperate to fit in – but those groups mean very little over time. You have nothing to be ashamed of, just be you.”

Other key findings from the Be Real Campaign’s ‘In Your Face’ research include:

  • 54% of young people who experience bullying about the way they look, do so by the age of 10
  • 1 in 2 of young people reported becoming anxious as a result of being bullied about the way they look
  • 53% of young people think bullies have insecurities about themselves / their own appearance

Read the full research document here: http://bit.ly/berealresearch

The Be Real Campaign is a national campaign run by YMCA and Dove and was formed in 2014 in response to the Reflections on Body Image report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image.

The Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools is part of the Be Real Campaign’s mission to tackle body image anxiety in young people to enable them to grow up into body confident adults. Schools can download a free copy of the toolkit at www.berealcampaign.co.uk/schools/

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