Tuesday 15 March 2022

It never gets easier... | Eating disorders and what needs to change

Fact: eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness

As a teenager I was very unwell entrenched in an inner battle with anorexia. I spent time in several inpatient stays. What saved me was psychotherapy though my eating disorder is still something that stays with me to this day.

On Sunday I heard of another person I knew closely from one of the inpatient units I was in who had passed away. 

I now now 6 people who have passed away from eating disorders, some have passed away from the illnesses itself others have ended their own life. Some where still very much unwell when they passed away others where well but had lasting damage to the body. Even my body has taken a toll from my own eating disorder.

Every time I hear of another life sadly lost it still hits me hard and never gets easier. At 28 I feel too young to know too many young lives taken too soon.

I still feel that more needs to be done to prevent these tragedies. Still far too often early intervention isn't happening; something I've been part of campaigning for for a lot time. More awareness is also greatly needed in places like schools and by primary care professionals such as GP's to aid early intervention and to support people like GP's to manage those who first start to show signs of developing an eating disorder. Also, something I felt was also missing was the care, or lack of, when I was discharged. I was seen by mental health services but they weren't specialists in eating disorders.

There needs to be better access to specialist eating disorder services - I know from personal experience that even when there is a specialist eating disorder service it is hard to get help from them. Often their main acceptance criteria is your BMI which is totally wrong. If you've been discharged from an impatient unit but need ongoing support post discharge your BMI will be within the normal range as well those who are in the early stages of developing an eating disorder will also have a normal BMI and for some types of eating disorders their BMI will remain within the normal range. So BMI shouldn't be used as an admittance criteria for help and support from an eating disorder service.

I also feel that the media need to be more responsible and thoughtful of how they approach the subject of eating disorders. There are many things that I find unhelpful when I read media reports around eating disorders and I can speak from personal experience when working with the media myself to help raise awareness of eating disorders. Awareness and facts about eating disorders need to be the focus; not a person's weight or a photograph of them when they were quite unwell.

Finally I just want to end this post in memory of Hayley and everyone else who is no long here. Hopefully the inquest for Hayley will help bring improvements for those with eating disorder and something will come from her loss.