Just 25 per cent of children feel confident about the way they look, new charity research shows

A charity which supports children and young people with disfigurements and visible differences in Yorkshire and the Humber is expanding their services nationwide.

Changing Faces provides workshops and counselling for children and their families who live with disfigurements including scars, cleft lift and palates and other visible differences. Photo: Adobe

Changing Faces provides workshops and counselling for children and their families who live with disfigurements including scars, cleft lift and palates and other visible differences.

The roll-out of the one-to-one counselling services for children comes as the charity releases new research which shows that just 25 per cent of children now feel confident about how they look, a fall from 39 per cent in 2018.

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And twice as many children with a visible difference (18 per cent) as not say their appearance leads to them feeling depressed.

The pandemic has exacerbated concerns for many young people with the number of children with a visible difference who are unhappy doubling from 14 per cent to 30 per cent since 2019.

Bronwen Henthorn, 17, from Dronfield, was born with a cleft lip and palate and has had multiple operations. She was bullied when beginning secondary school.

She said: “A lot of children do get bullied. It happened to me every single day by loads of people, and sometimes I felt like I didn’t want to go to my teachers anymore.

“It’s a big issue among young people, especially when people say they wouldn’t want to be friends with someone with a visible difference.

“Sometimes I just wish people were educated about it. If they were, there would be a lot less bullying.”

Changing Faces CEO Heather Blake said: “We live in an image obsessed society. For children and young people who have disfigurements, scars, marks and conditions that make them look different, the reality is that they often face a daily battle for acceptance. They are contending with stares, comments and bullying in school and public places.”

Nearly one in five adults self-identify as having a visible difference such as a mark, scar or condition.

At least 1.3 million children, young people and adults in the UK are estimated to have significant disfigurements, including 569,000 with facial disfigurements.

Dr Amanda Bates, a Changing Faces ambassador says: “I am delighted that more children and families across the UK will be able to access this unique support. Early intervention and counselling changes lives, helping children deal with anxieties about their appearance and learning skills to help them deal with other people’s reactions. Currently there is little to no support of this type available from the NHS, which is why services like these from Changing Faces are so important.

“I didn’t have access to this much needed service as a young person and I struggled with my mental health into adulthood. I reached breaking point, at one point even considering suicide. It would have made all the difference if this support had been available to me.”