Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and Instagram have today launched CALM Body Talks – a campaign focused on raising awareness about body image issues in men.
The campaign aims to make the topic of body image issues more approachable for men as recent survey results from CALM suggest that many men may be suffering in silence.
Of 2000 men surveyed, only 21% feel comfortable talking about body image issues, despite 35% of men aged 16 and 40 saying they are unhappy with the way they look and 48% saying it has negatively affected their mental health.
The pandemic seems to have exacerbated the issue too, with 58% saying the way they feel about their body has worsened over the past 13 months.
Supported by Instagram, the campaign has enlisted the help of body image campaigners Jamie Laing, Russell Kane, Leon McKenzie and Stevie Blaine to share their experiences with body image issues.
"I played a lot of rugby as a kid and when I was 17-years-old, I damaged my ACL ligament and I couldn't play sport again, but I used to eat a lot" says Jamie Laing in the first of CALM's Body Talks published on Instagram today.
"I'm also 5 foot 9 on a good day and my mum said to me once that I look stocky and I was overweight and I was big.
"An immediate shame came over me. I then, from that moment on, became conscious that I had to not eat certain foods, constantly pretend that I've eaten a meal when I hadn't.
"I was tiny, I was skinny because I thought skinny meant attractive."
Instagram has been one of the causes of body issues in men, CALM CEO Simon Gunning told BBC News.
"Unquestionably Instagram has caused the pressure for adolescent boys to be big and muscly, it is unhealthy and unattainable," says Gunning.
"This campaign tackles the issue at its core, body image on Instagram.
"Body image issues are massively prevalent in women and girls. The same pressures apply to men but we don't discuss it in the same way – the way we portray body image for men is decades behind. There is no debate for men on this topic."
Results from CALM surveys agree with him: according to its latest research, 54% of respondents said that media representations of men are inaccurate.
Similar results were reported in another CALM survey in February, where almost two thirds (64%) of men aged 18 to 34 said that toxic male stereotypes in advertising and media were fuelling poor mental health in young men.
Three-quarters (75%) of respondents also said that social media platforms made it hard for them to remain mentally healthy due to enabling the sharing of these stereotypes.
In response, CALM called for men to be able to show their vulnerability, saying it "will go a long way to improve the situation for so many."
"It shows that the public needs to see realistic depictions of men – men who are good at what they do and good dads and also open, vulnerable and emotional."
Visit the CALM Body Talks hub here.
Written by Marco Ricci
Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health