One of Action Mental Health’s services – AMH Adapt – provides support to people affected by an eating disorder, as well as their family and friends in the Southern Trust area. We deliver well-being programmes and free confidential one to one sessions which provide information and guidance on how to best support recovery. Through our recent BodyTalk programmes we have been asking students how we can help to build our self-esteem and confidence around body image, these are some of their thoughts:
“Keep your head held high and don’t give up.”
“Think less about what other people think. Your own self care is more important and how you see yourself. Don’t always believe the images you see in the media.”
“Just talk. It’s ok to ask for help if you need it.”
“Surround yourself with people who build you up and don’t bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself.”
“Don’t compare yourself to others. We should celebrate our differences, we are all unique and that’s our strength.”
The role of social media was highlighted by students as being a pressure and possible cause of stress around Body Image, particularly with new apps emerging that allowed pupils to be anonymously rated on their appearance, which often lead to negative comments and the students recognised this could lead to low self-esteem and a negative body image. In order to reduce this risk students had positive discussions about how important it was for privacy settings on social media and being careful about the content we view, that we aren’t viewing any content that makes us feel bad, or makes us want to change our bodies.
When speaking about the subject of self-esteem one girl commented that she did feel confident, but that this confidence solely came from the compliments on her image from other boys. We discussed the importance of building up our own self-worth by identifying our strengths and things that make us up as a person that come from: the way we treat others, our hobbies and interests and our personalities. There is so much more to who we are than just our image.
When speaking to clients and families affected by eating disorders, two of the words we hear repeated are “blame” and “shame”. These two words can be the reason for many people suffering in silence. Some of the main ways we can break this silence is to show everyone that there is no shame in talking, there is no shame in asking for help, that you are worthy of support and love regardless of size. An eating disorder is not a choice, but recovery is. To lift the blame individuals need support. Support without judgement, support that listens and doesn’t always try to “fix things”, support than offers unconditional love and support than recognises that recovery is about progression and not perfection.
80% of people who screen positively for eating disorders have never accessed help or support. Yet eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder. 1 in 5 of the most seriously affected will die prematurely from the physical consequences, or from suicide. This is why breaking the silence is vital. We need to challenge the misconceptions that keep those in need of support in silence.
Recognising early warning signs are essential and it is never too early to seek help. If you need help, or you’re worried about someone, just talk. Talk to a friend, talk to a GP, talk to one of these Eating Disorder Support charities –