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The sensitive subject of acne
16th October 2015 ... Michael
I couldn't say the word "acne" out loud until I was an adult. It's a very emotional thing, your skin, and acne was doing me such emotional harm at school that I was unable to ever speak about it, even though I really needed to.
The biggest misconception to do with acne is 'they are just spots'. I would never underestimate the multiple impact of acne on anybody's school life. It can affect academic achievement, socialising, school trips, participation in sport, eating, overall mood, self esteem, attendance, in fact every aspect of emotional wellbeing.
Despite acne being the most mainstream physical condition to affect pupils at school, there is a silence surrounding acne. Sadly, that silence is self perpetuating as acne continues to be a subject largely ignored compared to, say, body image. The silence is twofold. It is the silence of pupils who are so deeply upset by acne that they bottle everything up and so friends, parents and teachers are completely unaware there is a problem. Also, there is the silence from schools in recognising the nature and extent of acne's impact. I believe very strongly that schools should be proactively reaching out to pupils who may be in real distress. In being open about acne within school there is a better chance of catching pupils before they reach a possible crisis point and, as was the case with me, become traumatised by their acne.
Another misconception is that the severity of the acne equates to the degree of upset. This isn't the case. Somebody who may appear to have mild acne can be overwhelmed by it. Somebody else who may appear to have more obvious acne may be emotionally strong and pragmatic.
There are so many strands to how acne can affect a pupil, boy or girl equally, that often a pupil with acne will only feel able to open up to somebody else who has direct experience of acne too. So, there needs to be an appreciation of this because a common thought process is 'there's no point, they won't understand', and this overrides a student's need to share their emotions.
There is no doubt that due to the intensity of feelings generated by something as personal as a young person's own skin, the subject of acne needs to be treated sensitively and knowledgeably by schools. For a pupil with acne, being told 'your skin doesn't look bad to me' is not the right kind of help. There needs to be a proper awareness of how students with acne can be affected across all school life.