Thousands of Scots call ChildLine about body image

Children say they worry about how they look. Picture (posed by model): Allan Milligan
Children say they worry about how they look. Picture (posed by model): Allan Milligan
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An “ALARMING” number of young people are contacting 
a charity’s helpline due to concerns about body image, it has emerged.

NSPCC Scotland said 2,098 children and young people contacted its ChildLine service in Scotland in 2012-13 because of worries about the way they looked.

In addition, large numbers contacting the charity about bullying also mentioned their appearance playing a part in their abuse.

The campaigners said mounting pressure to look good meant that physical appearance was now a top concern for young people.

The figures revealed that 
pressure seemed to mount during the warmer months, with 65 per cent of counselling 
sessions at ChildLine’s Glasgow and Aberdeen bases taking place in spring and summer.

NSPCC Scotland said children and young people contacted ChildLine for support due to low self-esteem and body image worries as they “struggled to cope with perceived pressures from peers and society”.

The charity said that its counsellors found that young people, by comparing themselves unfavourably with media ideals and their peers, often struggled to find anything positive about their skills, achievements or appearance.

The charity highlighted the experiences of several young people, including a girl who contacted the Aberdeen centre because she was so unhappy with her appearance that she avoided activities for fear of drawing attention to herself.

She told counsellors: “I hate the way I look, and feel fat and ugly all the time. It has stopped me from doing things I enjoy because I just don’t feel confident in front of people. I hate feeling this way but I don’t see how I can change.”

A teenager also contacted the Glasgow service after she was bullied about her looks.

“I feel under so much pressure to look a certain way but I can’t change the fact that I’m ugly and fat,” she said.

“When I take pictures with my friends I’ll look at them and ask myself why I look so ugly next to them. I have been 
bullied a lot in the past about how I look too, so this knocks my confidence even more. I don’t know how to stop comparing myself to other people.”

Susan Dobson, ChildLine 
service manager, said: “Young people face intense pressures, bombarded by society’s unhealthy obsession with appearance and unrealistic images of the ‘norm’ to which we should all apparently aspire.

“Chasing these airbrushed ideals can result in the destruction of body image and confidence.”

ChildLine counselled seven times as many girls as boys about their appearance, but body image was still a worry for several boys who contacted the service.