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Mental Health/Wellness

Selected Program: Happy Being Me

Overview

Bullying and body dissatisfaction have become increasingly common among adolescents. The latest Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey (Idaho State Department of Education [ISDE], 2017) revealed that more than 1 in 4 students have been bullied on school property, and 1 in 5 have been cyberbullied. Of these children, 33% were targeted because of their weight, body size/shape, or appearance. This greatly contributes to negative body image and has staggering implications for the risk of eating disorders. Because of society’s unrealistic expectations for women’s body size and shape, over 40% of high school girls think they are overweight, when in reality less than 25% actually are. In addition, two-thirds of girls reported that they were trying to lose weight (ISDE, 2017).

Happy Being Me is a peer-based body dissatisfaction prevention program for 7th – 8th grade students to reduce risk factors for disordered eating and negative body image before those problems develop or become worse. It was designed to be implemented in schools, but the intervention can be adapted for any setting that allows for confidential group discussion. Studies have shown that the program is effective both when implemented in gender-specific and co-educational groups, so the school/teacher/agency can choose the design that best fits their needs and population.

The program consists of six 50-minute lessons, with topics like personal body image, body shaming prevention, fat talk, and bullying. At the beginning of the program, students are paired up with a “body image buddy” that will be their partner for the rest of the intervention. The buddies encourage and support each other, and provide accountability to make sure they are not body shaming themselves or others.

Goals

  • To prevent body dissatisfaction and eating disorders by reducing risk factors
  • To “build a peer environment where [participants] can feel positive about themselves & their bodies, and to help others around them feel less pressure to live up to media standards for appearance” — Mind Matters, n.d.
  • To improve participants’ well-being

Links

Program Websites

mindmatters.edu.au/tools-resources/programs-guide/details?id=9a168b64-db9a-6d2b-9fad-ff0000a141dd&sp

bodypositivity.weebly.com/happy-being-me.html

Age Group

7th – 8th grade students (12-14 years old)

Gender

Male, Female

Can be facilitated in gender-specific or co-ed groups

IOM Classification

Universal direct

Possible Implementation Settings

  • School (suggested)
  • Community group
  • Faith-based youth groups
  • Juvenile justice center
  • Can be adapted for other settings
  • Option to have in-person parent groups facilitated by the agency to enhance learning

Cost Associated and How to Purchase/Access

Completely FREE!

How to Access

Email Susan Paxton (one of the program’s creators), she will send you access to a Dropbox containing all the necessary materials

Program Contact

Susan Paxton, Professor, School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University

susan.paxton@latrobe.edu.au

Training Information

No training needed to facilitate.

Pros & Cons

PROSCONS
FREEDeveloped in Australia so the media, celebrities, and athletes they show are Australian and most likely unfamiliar to American kids. (Easy fix: make your own PowerPoint with American celebrities)
Changes the school (or other setting’s) climate to be more accepting of everyone no matter their size or shape; this positive environment remains long after the program endsDoesn’t “address the role of social media in friendship and media influences. This is particularly relevant when discussing appearance conversations and appearance comparisons. You may want to introduce discussions around those topics as it is an important area now.” – Susan Paxton, program co-developer
Peer-based “body image buddy” systemHave to print everything on your own (indirect cost)
Program contact very helpful and responsive to emailsSome terms are Australian slang, may need to look up before the session and be ready to define
Provides possible facilitator responses to tough comments/questions

Why I Chose This Program Over Others

I chose this program over others because I wanted to focus on a body image program for adolescents. Happy Being Me is highly effective in a variety of settings and formats, and that adaptability is a huge plus for schools and organizations when implementing a new program. The focus on preventing eating disorders was a key factor in my decision to choose this intervention because of the shocking fact that almost half of Idaho teens are trying to lose weight—most commonly by diet modification (ISDE, 2017). Another reason this program appealed to me was that Susan, the program contact, responded so quickly to my emails and was helpful in identifying additional lessons and topics that could supplement the material and make it more current.

Honorable Mention

Voices: A Program of Self-Discovery and Empowerment for Girls

A trauma-informed, strengths-based program for improving girls’ self-esteem and mental health

hazelden.org/OA_HTML/item/509140?Voices-Collection&src_url=itemquest

References

Idaho State Department of Education. (2017). Idaho youth risk behavior survey: A healthy look at Idaho youth. Retrieved from sde.idaho.gov/student-engagement/school-health/files/youth/2017-Youth-Risk-Behavior-Survey-Results.pdf

Mind Matters. (n.d.). Program details. Retrieved from mindmatters.edu.au/tools-resources/programs-guide/details?id=9a168b64-db9a-6d2b-9fad-ff0000a141dd&sp

National Eating Disorders Collaboration. (2015). For schools: Programs and resources available for schools. Retrieved from nedc.com.au/for-schools

Paxton, S. (September 2017). Personal email communication.

Yager, Z., Diedrichs, P. C., Ricciardelli, L. A., & Halliwell, E. (2013). What works in secondary schools? A systematic review of classroom-based body image programs. Body Image, 10(3), 271-281. doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.04.001