Airbrush warnings could help fight anorexia

Pa
Tuesday 23 February 2010 17:47
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A leading mental health body yesterday called for warning symbols to accompany airbrushed pictures of models and celebrities to help combat eating disorders.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said a kite mark on digitally enhanced photographs would raise awareness of how often such manipulation takes place and help stop people trying to achieve "unattainable physical perfection".

The college also used London Fashion week to call for a ban on underweight models.

The college urged the next Government to set up a forum, made up of politicians, experts, and representatives from the media and advertising, for the development of an editorial ethical code.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Adrienne Key, of the college's eating disorders section, said the media must be stopped from "glamorising" excessive weight-loss and adding to the psychological and social pressures faced by young people.

She said: "What we need to do is raise people's awareness of what they are looking at. A lot of people have no idea how much manipulation goes on."

She said there was mounting evidence to show the role of the media in the development of eating disorders, particularly in adolescents and young people.

And she added: "The aims of the forum should be to collaboratively develop an ethical editorial code that realistically addresses the damaging portrayal of eating disorders, raises awareness of unrealistic visual imagery created through airbrushing and digital enhancement, and also addresses the skewed and erroneous content of magazines."

In its "Call for Action" the college also called for mass media "role models" with diverse weights, shapes and ages, and a ban on the use of underweight models.

It urged the media to stop publishing "body critical" articles targeting celebrities for being overweight, underweight or physically imperfect.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of beat, a charity combating eating disorders, said: "We welcome this call to action from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

"The media is a powerful influence and we know how vulnerable some people at risk of eating disorders can be to its visual images in particular.

"We know there is more that can be done to make that influence a positive one, and adopting the recommendations of the college's statement would be an important step."

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