Approximately 1.25 million in the UK have an eating disorder. Without treatment, up to 20% of sufferers can die from their disorders.
On average, sufferers wait 3.5 years between the onset of symptoms and treatment for their disorder. The general belief that eating disorders only affect young, white, middle class women of one body type (‘skinny’) discourages sufferers of a different ethnicity, gender and age from seeking help. It also makes it harder for people to spot sufferers among their loved ones given there is such a ‘cliche’ sufferer image that people associate with eating disorders. Furthermore, the increase in the use of ‘anorexic’ as an adjective for a slim individual is evidence of the trivialisation of these fatal disorders and we must work to stop this.
Eating disorders can be fatal. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses and mortality rates for other eating disorders such as bulimia are also high. Many sufferers may not even recognise that they are suffering from an eating disorder due to the lack of information available and will not seek help until it is almost too late. During this week, it is crucial that we raise awareness as a community that eating disorders can affect anyone and encourage people to seek help, no matter their individual characteristics. Mental illness does not discriminate who it affects, no matter their wealth, gender, age, ethnicity or social position.
Eating disorders are curable and full recovery is possible. We must recognise the stigmatisation that those suffering from eating disorders face and campaign not just this week, but always, to ensure that those suffering seek the help they desperately need.
In my constituency, Platform 1 does incredible work for men’s mental health and I was pleased to visit their inspiring facility last Friday. It is key that those who suffer from mental health issues have a place to go where they feel safe and cared for, of which Platform 1 is a great example of. Platform 1 provides a place for men to talk about their mental illness with no judgement, which is key to encourage sufferers to seek help.
This week, and always, please look after your loved ones and remember it is okay to talk. Please encourage anyone you suspect to suffer from eating disorders (and mental illness) to seek help, before it is too late.