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This new campaign is working to end hygiene shaming in schools

TextAlex Peters

Hygiene poverty dramatically impacts the mental health of school children – here’s how you can help

Hygiene shaming dramatically impacts the mental health and wellbeing of both school children and teachers, a new study has revealed. Conducted by charity Beauty Banks, the report found that 44 per cent of teachers have witnessed children being bullied because of hygiene shaming while 38 per cent of teachers have offered pupils hygiene items like deodorant and toothpaste. 

For the past two years, Beauty Banks has been supporting people who live in hygiene poverty, galvanising communities and individuals to support those who need it, collecting donations, and working with beauty brands to distribute unused toiletries to food banks, homeless shelters, NHS trusts, schools, family centres, and churches all over the UK.

Now, as schools start back up again, they are focusing their efforts on what they have identified as “hygiene shaming” in schools, working to raise awareness and money to support teachers and students who are dealing with hygiene poverty in the classroom.

“Now more than ever, if you can’t afford to be clean you can be stigmatised, victim-shamed and bullied and that stigma, that shame, is internalised, and you shame and blame yourself,” says Jo Jones, co-founder of Beauty Banks. “It’s a catastrophic barrier to learning.”

Hygiene shaming encompasses both the self-shame that a child feels because they can’t afford to be clean as well as the shame they receive from peers. This shame affects both the students and the teachers who witness it. Beauty Banks’s study found that 39 per cent of teachers have witnessed their pupils’s mental health suffer due to hygiene shaming while one in three teachers say they were upset and saddened from witnessing hygiene shaming and one in five teachers are suffering depression as a result of dealing with hygiene poverty.

“There is a growing body of qualitative evidence that hygiene poverty has a very significant negative impact on school attendance, achievement, mental health, and wellbeing,” says educational psychologist Joyce Fullarton. “Recent research has reported that girls who experience hygiene poverty are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression, lack confidence and find it hard to socialise. They are less likely to be successful in GCSE exams and unlikely to sit A Levels.”

To combat this, Beauty Banks has teamed up with GoFundMe and Superdrug, with the support of MP Carolyn Harris, to launch a fundraising campaign to raise money to send personal care and hygiene products to children in need via their school. To date, they have raised over £15,000. They will also be lobbying brands directly to donate unused products – deodorant, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. – and launching a kids-4-kids programme that encourages children in schools not affected by hygiene poverty to fundraise and support a school in need.

“Shame makes children and adolescents feel small, humiliated, and bad about themselves,” says co-founder Sali Hughes. “We cannot in any good conscience allow children to feel life-limiting shame over a lack of deodorant, toothpaste, and soap. We need to help teachers to give kids the hygiene essentials they need to thrive."

Donate to support the campaign here. And if you work in a school in the UK where hygiene poverty is a big issue get in touch with Beauty Banks and they will help with deliveries of personal care and hygiene products.

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