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ACNE is not taken seriously enough, despite the bullying and stigma people face, says charities.James Partridge, founder and chief executive of disfigurement charity Changing Faces, says attitudes desperately need challenging.
“We need to show respect, help people cope, not belittle and stigmatise.
“Every year there are instances of suicide due to people’s distress around acne,” said James, speaking to BBC Radio .
“Self harm is also very common.”
Because it’s not life threatening, money and research is going into other areas, the British Skin Foundation argues
Dr Anjali Mahto, spokesperson and consultant dermatologist told Newsbeat: “The anxiety skin disease creates often gets neglected. Because it’s not going to kill you, it falls at the bottom of a list of what needs to be done.
“People with acne are often overlooked – told to ‘get on with it’ or that they’ll grow out of it.
“I often see patients who refuse to make eye contact. People who grow their hair so it covers their face. People who refuse to go out, go to work or to go to school,” says Dr Mahto.
The psychological impact of acne can last beyond the spots themselves.
“If you’ve grown up with the mindset you’re a spotty teenager, the negative body image can stay with you for many years afterwards,” she said.
Michael Willocks, who suffered with severe acne for years, wants schools to make discussing skin issues routine. He thinks this could help young people suffering with skin conditions.
His project, school derm time, aims to show teachers how acne can affect behaviour. During his school years he bottled everything up because he thought nobody would understand.
“All I needed was a prompt from the school, anything that resonated with how I felt,” he explained to BBC Radio
Jordan Grey is 22 and had acne at school.
“Looking at myself would make me feel sick. I would go into the changing room and kids would ask: ‘What’s wrong with you?’ It was degrading.
“It stopped me from going out. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt sick. My face felt pus-filled and disgusting.”
He thinks better awareness of acne amongst teachers would have helped him.
Katy Gilroy, 22, feels the same.
“Had we been taught, in science or PSHE, what the causes of acne are or that it’s a medical condition like any other, then people would not have felt the need to comment negatively on it.”
She told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat she was more upbeat about her skin now.
“As I got older, I realised there will always be more to life than your skin – but at one point I thought I’m always going to feel awful about my skin, I’m always going to be upset about it.”
Josh Speers got acne in primary school. It continued till he was 14.
“I’d show you a photo of me with acne but I made sure there weren’t any taken during that time,” he said. “Teachers need to look out for signs of bullying. A lot of weird rumours went round my school – like Josh doesn’t wash, Josh doesn’t take showers or bath, which just wasn’t true.”
Chloe is 15 and at school in Cardiff.
Although her friends and family are supportive, she thinks being taught about skin in school would stop unwelcome comments.
“I think learning about it in lessons, telling people what could benefit them and how people without acne should treat people who do have acne would be a good idea.”
Dr Anjali Mahto says it’s important people seek help if they are struggling.
“If acne is causing problems with self confidence, anxiety, depression, if it’s stopping you doing anything you want to, then you should get medical help.”
James says there should be a way to care for people with acne. He uses the example of a surgery in north Leeds, the Street Lane GP practice.
As well as providing medical treatments for acne, they also provide skin camouflage advice and psychological help.
“There are Changing Faces practitioners there, like counsellors, who are trained to help people deal with their concerns. We think that should be available across the country so people are able to deal with the psychosocial impact of acne.”
For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritans branch.For those outside U.K see your Doctor