It is estimated that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder with an estimated 18,000 and 20,000 individuals living with an eating disorder in Northern Ireland at any one time. That person might be you, your sibling, your parent, child, neighbour – anyone.
This year, Action Mental Health marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2021 during the unprecedented times of a pandemic, when one particular illness has been on the rise – Binge Eating Disorder (BED). It is estimated that one in fifty people experience Binge Eating Disorder.
Fittingly, Eating Disorder Awareness Week this year focuses on Binge Eating Disorder and how it has thrived in the isolation Covid-19 has enforced on society, when sufferers have been denied their usual coping mechanisms and support networks.
Among Action Mental Health’s myriad services is its own specialist eating disorder service AMH everyBODY. Serving people with eating disorders in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT) area, its team are this week sharing their expertise and guidance on coping with an eating disorder to everyone.
Seen as a ‘lifeline’ by the clients, AMH everyBODY not only supports service users, in partnership with the SHSCT, but also their families, who are often left feeling helpless and unsure how to help their loved ones in need.
Statistics show that eating disorders claim more lives than any other mental illness, with one in five of the most seriously affected dying prematurely from the physical consequences or by suicide.
AMH everyBODY promotes a greater understanding and awareness of eating disorders, promotes positive lifestyle choices in people about eating to develop preventative, self-supporting skills and break the associated stigma.
Often, unhelpful assumptions that eating disorders are merely attention-seeking behaviour or fad dieting is what stops people seeking the support they need – having an eating disorder is a serious mental health condition.
AMH EveryBODY project worker, Deborah McCready comments:
“The focus of Action Mental Health everyBODY’s approach is recovery through partnership; a partnership between the person, their family and the SHSCT, who, in working collectively, will provide comprehensive support towards recovery. AMH everyBODY provides much needed support not only to the person affected but also to their families and friends at the very popular Carers’ Group monthly meeting – which is currently online.
“AMH everyBODY exists to bridge the gap on the clients’ journey from the moment they seek help until they eventually get to speak to a medical expert, as with existing waiting lists this can be a long time.
“When people have taken that important step and are willing to engage and seek help AMH everyBODY offers a recovery approach in sessions when people will receive information and support to develop skills, stay focused and healthy until they see a therapist.”
Prior to appointments people can feel unsupported and alone, contact with AMH everyBODY at this time will help people support themselves and get the best from their therapist when they meet.
Eating disorders affect over 700,000 women and men in the UK at any one time, with research suggesting that this figure is vastly underestimated. It is thought some 80% of individuals who screen positively for having an eating disorder have never accessed help or support. One of the most harmful symptoms of an eating disorder is silence – AMH everyBODY encourages people affected to speak out for support and know that a listening, understanding and confidential ear will be there to provide support towards recovery.
AMH everyBODY Manager, Colin Loughran said:
“This is a very practical model and one that could be used as a model of best practice throughout Northern Ireland. There is a significant shortfall in support services for people experiencing eating disorder and their families, prior to patients being seen by clinicians.”
If you live in the Southern Health Trust Area you can contact the AMH everyBODY Team – T: 028 3839 2314 or E: [email protected]