This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week – an international week devised to shine a light on anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and OSFED – a term used to describe ‘other specified feeding or eating disorder’ when a person’s symptoms fall outside the expected symptoms for these three specific eating disorders.
The theme of this year’s focus is “I’m #TakingActionOnEatingDisorders and through Action Mental Health’s eating disorder service everyBODY, people living with the disorders have been speaking out, sharing their stories, in the hopes they’ll inspire people to seek help, as quickly as possible.
It is a sad fact that many people wait an extended periods before seeking help. It’s estimated that on average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost three years or 1,043 days.
That’s too long to wait for anyone, especially in light of statistics which 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.
That’s why Action Mental Health’s eating disorder service everyBODY was launched. Operating in the Southern health trust area since 2000, it was formerly known as ADAPT but was relaunched in September 2018 as AMH everyBODY.
EveryBODY’s support employs a preventative, interventionist and postvention approach, targeting the general public with awareness-raising sessions to equip people with the knowledge and skills necessary to self or seek support.
It also supports people affected by eating disorders, including family members and friends, to support recovery, and develops effective partnerships to ensure comprehensive, progressive support.
In light of the alarming suicide rate linked to eating disorders, AMH everyBODY promotes a greater understanding and awareness of these conditions. It promotes positive lifestyle choices, about eating to develop preventative and self-supporting skills. It also exists to help break the associated stigma – including unhelpful assumptions that it is attention-seeking behaviour or fad dieting that stops people seeking the support they need: in short, having an eating disorder is a serious mental health condition.
The focus of AMH everyBODY’s approach is recovery through partnership; a partnership between the person, their family and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, who all work collectively to 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 Carers’ Group monthly meeting.
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.
As a community, part of spreading this awareness is by reducing some of the myths and misconceptions around eating disorder.
It is clear from our experience with clients how damaging misunderstanding, stigma and ignorance can be for both the person affected and their families. Indeed, there is no doubt that this stigma and ignorance can act as a major barrier to identification, early intervention and ultimately recovery from the illness.
Action Mental Health’s Deborah McCready, everyBODY Project Worker said: “AMH everyBODY exists to bridge the gap on the clients’ journey from the moment they seek help until they get to speak to a medical expert, as with existing waiting lists this can be some 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.