Body image and why it matters

Body image is a key aspect of youth mental health. Unfortunately research in Ireland indicates that many young people are dissatisfied with how they look (Dooley et al., 2019)* 

This is concerning as negative body image is linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and to substance and alcohol misuse, self harm and suicide. A recent report (Ombudsman for Children, 2023)** indicated that 65% of young people indicated body image concerns made them feel depressed or anxious. 

It is vital that we support young people in developing positive body image and self esteem. Research in Ireland and internationally indicates that body image concerns are starting earlier than before and emphasises the importance of addressing risk factors at an earlier stage. 

Bodywhys have a range of supports for teachers including teacher training, resources to use in the classroom and other support options. 

The Bodywhys resources are evidence informed and have been developed through a multi-stage process involving consultation with educators, mental health professionals and young people. 

Given the unique pressures to body image experienced by young people, Bodywhys prioritise youth engagement. In line with WHO Europe (2022)*** guidelines, Bodywhys ‘listen to and understand the perspectives, experiences and needs of young people in’ in developing resources which affect them.

Bodywhys Research 2023/2024 

Bodywhys will be offering schools nationwide an opportunity to participate in Bodywhys body image research in 2023/2024. This is a unique opportunity for your students to have a voice on matters which affect them. 

Participating schools will receive the following: Bodywhys Training, Bodywhys workshops to promote positive body image and awareness of eating disorders to First Year, Second Year and TY groups. Participating schools will also be supported to complete the ‘Be Body Positive’ Flag Initiative and the ‘Be Body Positive’ Flag for display outside their school. 

To find out more about what’s involved in the Bodywhys Research 2023/2024 please contact for more information.

Staff training

Bodywhys offer training webinars throughout the school year to provide teachers, school staff and youth workers with an understanding of eating disorders and body image issues to support them in early recognition of an eating disorder or body image concerns in a student and the correct pathways to follow should a concern arise.

The Bodywhys #MoreThanASelfie Programme

The evidence informed #MoreThanASelfie programme includes four lessons with accompanying student workbooks and facilitators guides. This programme was designed in collaboration with young people and teachers to promote media and social media literacy, positive body image and to foster a peer supportive environment to promote and maintain positive body image and self-esteem. 

The #MoreThanASelfie programme was funded by the Irish Research Council and conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Mental Health and Community Research in Maynooth University. 

This programme was piloted in three secondary schools, selected based on location, gender and school type, The results from the pilot phase are a positive endorsement of the programme. 

The vast majority of participants indicated that the lessons were good for their class (91.4%) and that they would like a younger sibling or friend to receive these lessons (87.9%). The results also indicate some positive changes in relation to body image and attitudes to appearance in students who received the programme, lessening the impact of the muscular ideal for males and a lessening of perceived appearance-related pressure for females. 

Some positive changes were also noted in relation to social media behaviours.

The ‘Be Body Positive’ Flag Initiative

The ‘Be Body Positive’ Flag initiative aims to encourage schools, youth groups, colleges, clubs and organisations to actively promote positive body image in children and young people. It is intended to enhance and reward positive action taken in relation to promoting positive body image. Please see visit us online at for more information.

Secondary Schools and Youth Groups

Bodywhys provide ‘Be Body Positive’ talk or workshop for students at second level to promote awareness of eating disorders and to promote positive body image, media and social media literacy. 

The ‘Be Body Positive’ talk/workshops (around 70-80 minutes duration) are delivered to class groups. 

This talk/workshop is intended to promote awareness of eating disorders and the supports available and also to promote positive body image through discussion of current influences to body image such as media, peers and social media and provide ‘youth advice on challenging body image pressures’ and fostering a positive body image.

School Project Groups

Body image, media literacy and eating disorders are popular topic choices for students who are interested in participating in the Young Social Innovators, Transition Year Annual Show, Cycle Against Suicide or other mental health promotion events. 

These topics are also popular with Leaving Cert Applied. Workshops can be arranged with project groups on request. Bodywhys input to the relevant project group can acknowledge and support their interest

Please contact for more information on what Bodywhys offer schools and to receive a school pack with a selection of information sheets, leaflets and posters.

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