What are you going to do when the media attacks?
My experience working with young adults has taught me that the media plays a very important role in influencing how college age students feel about themselves. For example, I have worked with many young women who were unhappy with their bodies and believed that unless they looked like models in fashion magazines, they were “too fat” and needed to go on a diet! Lots of these young folks experienced disordered eating and suffered from poor self-concept. When we tried to identify all of the factors that contributed to their low esteem, almost everyone mentioned the messages they received from the media! They said that they were constantly messaged that unless you were super thin, you weren’t attractive. And they described feeling like crap if their bodies weren’t like the models in the magazines. And the irony was that many of the models were at dangerously unhealthy weights.
I became very interested in learning more about how the messages we receive around body image, race, class, and gender influence our mental health. In fact, I even edited a book about this; it’s called Social Justice in Clinical Practice and it will be published in March of 2014. The book is written by team of social workers and it’s filled with clinical examples about how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are impacted by media messages. And, most importantly, our book discusses how the people we worked with deconstructed many of these toxic messages and “fought back” to reclaim their health!
We all know that good health is not just a physical thing; it’s about feeling strong and healthy, mentally as well as physically. For the next several months, I’m going to be writing a series of blogs calling out all those media messages that mess with our mental health. I will be looking at how all of us are messaged every single day and what the effects of those messages are. To the media who try to brainwash us to feel bad about ourselves, we are putting you on notice: we will check you! What are you going to do when the media attacks? Stand Up! Fight Back!