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Reflections on World Mental Health Day 2020

Last Saturday (October 10) marked this year’s World Mental Health Day, and to recognise the occasion, Britain Uncovered hosted our very own body positivity photoshoot – with the aim of shining the spotlight on the value of clothes-free experiences in relation to mental health.


An annual initiative that has taken place on October 10 every year since 1992, World Mental Health Day has one primary objective in mind: to encourage positive mental health for all. Via a range of fundraising events and educational literature that seeks to raise awareness of this important issue, for nearly 30 years the day has provided valuable guidance and assistance for those struggling with mental health concerns. However, with 450 million people across the globe currently suffering from mental health issues (at the time of writing), it’s clear that efforts will need to be ramped up considerably if we’re to address this rather staggering statistic.


Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse, with the stress of lockdown and the consequential job losses and financial impact having a hugely adverse impact on people’s state of mind throughout the year. And with the threat of a second mass-scale lockdown lurking in the shadows, it’s feared that the aforementioned tally of 450 million will continue to escalate as we move into 2021.


Thus, the theme of this year’s annual event was ‘Move for Mental Health: Increased investment in mental health’. Still a subject that’s not given anywhere near the coverage it warrants by the mainstream media, in our opinion, investment in mental health is definitely a vital proposition and something well worth campaigning for; although whether or not those in power will heed the call and take the matter as seriously as they should is another matter altogether.


In addition to raising awareness of the issue by hosting this annual event, we were pleased to see that the Mental Health Foundation (the organisation in charge of the campaign) has come up with a wealth of online resources to help people stay positive during the coronavirus – and this dedicated portal on its website contains lots of useful tips for students, office workers, those suffering with financial issues, bereavements and beyond.

One topic not yet covered in the range of topics, however – and potentially a glaring omission – is support for those struggling with physical issues brought about via the onset of lockdown, and the unfortunate impact this can have on an individual’s mental health. It’s long been our opinion that there’s a strong connection between physical and mental health, and we truly feel that one half of this equation can’t flourish without the other.


With people confined to their homes and turning to food and drink as their sole source of comfort and entertainment in many instances, lockdown was definitely a challenging time in this regard, and physical health may not have been the priority – and this can undoubtedly lead to poor mental health if it starts becoming a concern. Although radio adverts have started encouraging people to adopt new diets to help get themselves back in shape, the issue runs deeper than that – and for those with pre-existing mental health conditions, lockdown may have just compounded them even further.


What does World Mental Health Day mean to you?


One of the questions posed by the organisers of the World Mental Health Day is, quite simply, “What does World Mental Health Day mean to you”? A quick scroll through its Facebook and Instagram channels will unearth a wide spectrum of viewpoints on the subject, but – much like the question we often put to our interviewees about their interpretation of the phrase ‘body positivity’ – there really is no right or wrong answer.

Since launching our Britain Uncovered project back in the summer, one of the primary aims of the site has been to explain the link between feeling confident in your own skin and the positive impact that can have on your mental health, and – despite COVID-19 challenging us all, in many different ways – we still feel clothes-free experiences are a powerful way of fighting back against diet culture. Accepting and embracing yourself as you are can make all the difference, and we’ve long been campaigning for the mainstream media to do more to involve those of all shapes and sizes to help promote a healthy, normal view as to how a person should look and feel about themselves.


We’ve conducted numerous interviews on the subject of body confidence here on the site over the past two months, and one of the questions we normally include relates to people’s views on social nudity, and finding out whether or not this is something that might be able to help with their confidence levels. The answer has, by and large, been a resounding thumbs-up, and even those who haven’t attempted such an experience have been able to spot the value in such an undertaking.


We’ve spoken to people who have participated in various fundraising events, such as Bare All For Polar Bears and Streak For Tigers, who expressed their enthusiasm and acknowledged the impact these clothes-free experiences gave – with many finding it surprisingly relaxing and even normal.


In particular, this quote in our interview with Beth about her first clothes-free experience really stood out to us:


“It just felt completely normal and natural to be there in that public place totally nude, and I think the fact there was not one tiny semblance of sexuality present made me feel entirely at ease. There was every size and shape of person imaginable, and the fact that everyone else exuded such a feeling of it being almost mundane that we had no clothes on made me feel the same way. Nobody was looking, nobody cared, we were just existing together in our natural form.”


Having this moment of realisation can make a huge difference on your overall mindset towards your body in the long-term, but unless you take that leap of faith, it may never materialise.


A celebration of body positivity

With the Britain Uncovered website dedicated to enhancing people’s body confidence and overall mental health levels, we wanted to join in with the World Mental Health Day festivities and raise some awareness ourselves too – so it seemed only fitting to host a body positivity session of our own to help promote the cause. We were very fortunate to be able to secure a slot up at the Belt Craft Studios in North London, which has welcomed the likes of Anthony Joshua, Sam Smith, Harry Kane and many other influential figures through its doors for various high-profile projects over the years.


The venue itself – a former textile warehouse that was stripped back to its roots when the current owners took charge – is an industrial setting that’s very easy on the eye and filled with artefacts from a bygone era. And considering that our own project involved our models stripping back to help raise awareness of body positivity, it seemed like a very apt location!


We were very fortunate to have two models join us on the day – Kat, a semi-professional rugby player who first decided to dip her toe into the modelling world six months ago; and Louise, an actress and recent graduate from the renowned East 15 Acting School over in Essex. As far as I’m aware, neither individual had any significant experience being clothes-free in a public setting, so I really admired their bravery and willingness to be involved with the project – and I’d like to think that in addition to raising awareness of the body positivity movement, participation may also have provided a valuable boost to their own body confidence levels too. From the feedback I’ve received, everybody involved reported a fantastic experience, and it couldn’t have gone more smoothly!


Although the event was designed to be a relaxed and celebratory occasion from the get-go, I did notice that the longer the shoot went, the more comfortable everybody became – a natural occurrence that’s also been mentioned by many of our interviewees when describing their own social nudity experiences. Although many of our readers will be accustomed to baring all and fully on-board with the fact that this can help improve body confidence levels, doing so in an unusual environment with people you’ve never met before is no mean feat, and finding your comfort zone in such a setting can understandably take some time.


I was fortunate to be shooting on the day with models who weren’t shy about bringing their own suggestions and creativity to the table, and their personalities really shone through as we worked our way around the studios (which also included an overgrown outdoor area full of interesting vintage props and nostalgia). The end-result was a really interesting series of photos showcasing body positivity at its finest, and even as a clothed bystander, it’s hard not to get swept up in the emotion of the event and end the day feeling just as empowered as those who were on the other side of the camera.


Before concluding, I just want to add that Britain Uncovered has (in our view) done a solid job of exploring the role social media can play in helping to promote body confidence, and there’s a plethora of body positivity feeds out there to keep you focused and motivated with daily reassurances and tips for keeping yourself in the right frame of mind.


Step by step, I genuinely feel that the tide is turning, and that people are starting to shun typical media perceptions of how we should look; but it’s not an overnight solution and will, of course, take time. In five years’ time, I genuinely think society will have an improved view of such issues, and if Britain Uncovered can help play even a tiny role in promoting this narrative, then we feel it’s a job worth doing.


- If you would like to take part in one of our interviews to discuss your own body positivity views, or tell us how participation in an event has helped you feel more confident about yourself, feel free to drop us a line by emailing britainuncovered@outlook.com.

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