Mental Health Week: Woman with body dysmorphic disorder backs online campaign about ditching filters
A woman who has suffered all her life with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is urging people on social media to ditch filters and photo editing as part of a campaign called #EndtheEdit.
BDD is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance, which are often unnoticeable to others.
Mercedys Gunnels, who is a patient of St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton, experienced a traumatic childhood which led to a damaging self-hatred and involved her turning to alcohol to try to make herself feel better. At her worst, the 32-year-old was drinking heavily everyday day and refused to have any mirrors in her house.
Mercedys said: “I never ever let people take full body shots of me and I always use filters when posting pictures online. I have never been happy with the way I look so I like to hide behind filters on all my pictures.”
Figures suggest one in five people feel shame about their body image which is damaging their mental health.
For World Mental Health Day on October 10, St Andrew’s Healthcare wants to promote natural beauty among online users and is encouraging people to retweet the hashtag #EndTheEnd – The real you is beautiful.
The organisation is hoping the online campaign, which encourages people to post an undoctored picture of themselves onto social media, will reach as many people as possible.
Mercedys, who has two young children, said she wanted to front the campaign to set a good example to her daughters.
She said: “I was on the phone to my eldest talking about her forthcoming visit at the weekend and she said to me ‘promise me mummy you won’t wear any false eyelashes or red lipstick, I want to see my real pretty mummy’. When I heard that I realised I have to stop hating myself and show the real me. Real beauty is important and we should be promoting that online, rather than trying to portray perfection that just doesn’t exist.”
Integrative Psychotherapist Liz Ritchie, the charity’s body image expert, is leading the way, having posted a photo of herself onto Twitter using #EndTheEdit.
Liz said: “Figures suggest 19 per cent of us say they are disgusted with their body. I think a lot of these negative feelings come from social media and people using these filters and editing apps to promote idealised images of perfect skin and bodies. But we must remember that perfectionism simply doesn’t exist.
“The way we talk to people and ourselves is very important and plays a huge part in our self-esteem as Mercedys herself has realised. But, there’s no doubt that social media has played a huge part in setting unrealistic expectations of perfection.
“Everytime we log on and scroll we’re bombarded with perfect faces and figures which everyone feels like they need to live up to.
“In recent years, I’ve seen an increase in many of my patients who now heavily rely on hiding behind filters or photo editing, because they are fearful of showing their real, beautiful faces online. It’s time we End the Edit and show that real is beautiful.”
Former GP and St Andrew’s Healthcare’s CEO Dr Vivienne McVey said: “It’s a sad state of affairs when expectation of perfection stops us appreciating the amazing reality of our bodies. In this day and age, particularly among the younger generation, it can be very easy to forget who ‘the real you is’ which is why we launched the EndTheEdit campaign.
“We really need to remind people that being real is even more beautiful than living up to everybody else’s expectations. Don’t be afraid to show the real you online. Be loud, be proud and be real.”
To join in with the online campaign upload a picture of yourself to any social media channel and post using the hashtag #EndTheEdit and tag any friends or family who you think might want to take part to.