Eating Disorder Awareness Week in 2016 is from the 22 and 28 February. The annual week is about raising awareness and debunking myths surrounding all eating disorders. Now I am sure that in previous years, this week has come and gone and missed you completely. Well this year make sure you get involved, raise awareness with the week and any events that occur. This week is incredibly important as it is the only annual week dedicated to raising awareness of eating disorders. Many people assume because eating disorders- such as anorexia- now receive more media time and attention that no more awareness is needed. However, eating disorder help and services is still majority underfunded. There is no specialist eating disorder unit in Exeter so most sufferers struggle without the proper help and support they need. This week is all about also changing perceptions of eating disorders.
There are so many misconceptions surrounding eating disorders: Not all anorexics are affluent teenage girls who purely want to be skinny and attractive. 10% are men and anorexia affects anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or background. Anorexia kills 25% of all sufferers and just as cancer does not discriminate, neither does mental illness nor eating disorders. Bulimia sufferers are not just girls who want to eat whatever they want but stay skinny, and people with EDNOS (Eating disorder non-specific) are not people who don’t have an eating disorder. Their eating disorders can be as mentally and physically damaging and challenging as any other.
Similarly the media continues to glamorise certain eating disorders. Rich pretty teenagers on dramas are often portrayed as having some form of eating disorder to stay thin. However, this does not portray the true reality of people suffering from eating disorders. True sufferers from any eating disorder are exhausted both mentally and physically, feel self-loathing and self-hatred, feel isolation and have less-known physical symptoms like their hair falling out or dangerous internal symptoms such as low sugar levels. Eating disorders are not glamorous. Being constantly shivering, with blue lips and limp, lifeless hair is not glamorous. Fainting from extremes and ending up in hospital is not glamorous.
Something that is often not talked about is the physical cost of eating disorders. Beside from the severe mental, physical and long term damage that eating disorders or disordered eating can cause for not only the sufferer but their entire family and friends. Many families have to give up their jobs or pay extortionate money to get their child or family member the help and support they need. Many sufferers cannot hold down a job due to the physical and mental demands from the disorders. Most eating disorder sufferers also tend to suffer from other mental illnesses, as anxiety, depression, self-harm and OCD often result from eating disorders and the severe mental anguish they cause. Eating disorders also cost the UK’s economy £15.8billion.
BEAT (Beat Eating Disorders) emphasise the importance of the whole community in our vision to overcome eating disorders and society’s role in unblocking the delays to eating disorder treatment. That is why National Eating Disorder Awareness week is so important. It is not only aimed at helping the individual sufferers and men and women throughout England who feel isolated, alone and empty due to their imprisonment in their disorders. But it is also about raising awareness of the family, friends and careers of those affected and the lack of support that the government provides for sufferers.
On campus, there is likely to be many campaigns and awareness raising activities running throughout the week, but there is often not enough. By simply ensuring that more people know about the week, get involved with ensuring everyone on campus knows that they can get involved with the week and help to raise awareness you are ensuring that everyone affected by eating disorders receive more help and support. It is as much about changing the stigma at University as much as it is about changing the national governmental plan for Eating disorder units. Mind Your Head will be having a stall in the forum and shall have a special screening of Inside Out in support of the Eating disorder charity (BEAT) so support the charity by watching a great Disney film!
There is also great confidential support from the Uni’s Nightline service “voice” who are open most nights from 8:00pm to 8:00am, they are there to support and listen to anyone concerned about their eating or someone else’s or any other issues – small or big, or visit the Wellness centre for more specific eating disorder support or mental health support. The University has a lot (but not enough) to try and help those suffering. So get involved in any way you can because even if you have never suffered from any kind of eating disorder in the past, I am sure you all know someone who has been affected by one. Eating disorders are not something to be ashamed of, they are something to actually try and solve and the best way of doing that is by raising awareness and stopping the stigmas that prevent sufferers from reaching out for help!
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues and need to talk call Voice from 8:00pm – 8:00am ring 01392 724000.