Introducing my first ever self-directed creative styling project, which aimed to raise awareness about Mental Health issues amongst young people.
The story behind the campaign
As a fashion blogger venturing into the world of styling, I wanted to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to do something different, something to showcase my creative side as a stylist, and also highlight everything that my brand as a blogger stood for. Organising my first fashion photo shoot provided me with a platform to explore these objectives, and most importantly, convey a message that aims to empower and encourage.
A conversation with a friend and fellow fashion blogger one day threw me into a cold reality. A young, beautiful and very successful blogger that I had worked with and developed a friendship with had taken a courageous step to publically speak out about her demons on her blog; Having read it, I couldn’t believe what she was sharing. She had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been suffering with depression, suicidal thoughts and an eating disorder for many years. I was shocked and overwhelmed that she had been going through all of this yet I was never aware of it before reading her blog post and having this conversation.
This heartbreaking revelation caused memories of my younger sister developing an eating disorder a few years ago to come flooding to the forefront of my mind. It was a time where I had to be there for her and be strong for her, despite having little knowledge of what to do or what to expect. What do you say to someone going through so much pain and turmoil about how they viewed themselves physically? What did it feel like to have constant destructive thoughts plague your mind about what a mirror reflects?
In that moment I was compelled to dedicate my first fashion photo shoot to raising awareness about mental health and eating disorders amongst young girls.
I started researching right away and the information I found was staggering.
The national Mental Health Foundation reported that 10% of children and young people aged between 5-16 years have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. 70% lacked the appropriate interventions they required from an early age fairly resulting in prolonged mental health problems and other related conditions such as eating disorders following them into adulthood. Adding those statistics to the fact that the adolescent stage of development can be the most significant and challenging time. It was overwhelming to read that 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24.
The Young Minds website stated that 1 in four young people in the UK experienced suicidal thoughts and that depression and anxiety rates had increased by 70% amongst teenagers in the past 25 years.
Taking into consideration that some cases are genetically influenced, I found that even without that genetic factor there are a number of factors that can potentially trigger mental health and eating disorder conditions and these factors can vary from person to person.
Some examples included:
- •childhood abuse
- •Social isolation
- •the death of a loved one
- •severe or long term stress
- •social disadvantage or poverty
- •experiencing discrimination and stigma
Figures provided by the Samaritans suicide statistics 2014 report state that 1 in 10 suicides in the UK are by those aged between 15-24 years old. 160 young people under the age of 20 die by suicide in England each year, 60-70 being under the age of 18.
According to the Anorexia and Bulimia care website, anorexia mostly affects girls, with the condition first developing at around 16-17 years of age. Cases of anorexia have even been identified in children as young as 6 years old!
Bulimia can develop at any age, however, it has been known to effect women aged 16-40 and on average, starts around the age of 18-19.
I listened to and read many stories directly from a number of young girls who had experienced or were currently battling with mental health and/or an eating disorder.
I have come to the realisation that self-perception plays a significant role in how young girls are affected by these conditions. Lack of confidence, low self-esteem, or a poor body image appear to be re-occurring themes in several experiences. This has been seriously magnified by the growing pressures from our society to look a certain way in order to be accepted. Social media and the world of celebrity plays a large role in making more and more young girls self-conscious about the way they look and constantly seeking an unrealistic image of ‘perfection’. From how to contour their face to match the current description of “pretty”, to how big their backside is or isn’t, to how many pairs of Louboutins they own, and if they have the latest pair of Adidas or Nike trainers.
Every emerging fashion trend is easily accessible through smart phones, the internet and the media making it harder than ever to avoid the deadly comparison game. The constant pressure to keep up with the popular, also plays as a continuous reminder to those who quite frankly can’t, leaving many young people entertaining the thought that they’re just not good enough to fit in.
As a young woman born in the 80s and grew up in the 90s I can definitely see major differences in the way I felt about myself at 11 or 12 years old in comparison to what I’ve witnessed and heard from young girls growing up in the 2000s. We live in a society that is becoming increasingly obsessed with how we look outwardly. This includes how we dress, and what labels we wear. A recent channel 4 documentary stated that the average teenager spends about £83 a month on clothing, and the need to wear certain brands and designers is hugely prevalent.
My fashion blog www.cheapandcheerfulshopper.com was set up just over 2 years ago to counteract the perception that you have to spend lots of money and wear expensive designer/high-street brands in order to look good and keep up with the latest fashion trends. Through my various blog posts I’ve shown that you can look good for next to nothing. You can look good for less and there is nothing wrong with the term ‘cheap and cheerful’ when it comes to your wardrobe.
In line with the ethos of my blog, I chose to style all the models in the #onepoundonemind fashion campaign shoot in dresses that cost only £1 each. Everyone involved in the shoot, i.e. the photographer and MUAs (make-up artists) were all paid £1 for their work. All in the aim of conveying a message to young girls all over the UK that “It doesn’t cost a lot to look good. Don’t let it cost your mental and physical health. Don’t let it cost your life”.
The 6 young ladies involved in the campaign as models are aged between 17 – 26 and have either suffered with a mental health and/or eating disorder or currently continuing their battle with these conditions. They have demonstrated great bravery while yet so vulnerable in coming forward and volunteering to be my models and also share their personal experiences. I wanted to not only use the campaign shoot to encourage other young girls all over the UK, but for these 6 young ladies themselves to be encouraged and boost their confidence and self-esteem in the process. They all looked amazing and did a fantastic job. I cannot thank them enough for allowing me to style them, and for helping the vision for the campaign become a reality.
It is possible to look good for just £1. Why should we allow young girls to continue to risk their mental and physical health, and even their lives, and do nothing about it?
Please join us in spreading this important message by sharing the campaign images on your social media and other content platforms using the hashtag #onepoundonemind.
Photography by: Ashleigh Jade
Useful contacts & links:
Tel: 0300 123 3393 Text: 86463
Tel: 0808 802 5544
Tel: 0345 634 7650
Tel: 03000 11 12 13