A few weeks ago some of you may have seen me rampaging the halls of ARU handing out information packs containing advice of how to reach help for those suffering from an eating disorder. This was due to it being Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW) and I was determined to do my part as a Young Ambassador for leading UK eating disorder charity, Beat. Among fervent e-mailing and student bombarding, during that week I managed to place information packs and leaflets in every doctor surgery in Central Cambridge. It’s a small step but information on how to access the correct care and help is vital for recovery; it was ludicrous that not one surgery contained any information to give to patients on the prevalence of eating disorders and how to access help and support.
Whilst it was a straining week which forced me to confront my past I found out something beautiful: I wasn’t alone. The statistics alone are staggering – 1.6 million people in Britain suffer from an eating disorder, and the amount of students who approached me with stories about their siblings, partners, and friends etc was both heart-warming and wrenching. When ill, it’s easy to alienate yourself to the point that you don’t realise that there are people who not only empathise but who understand. Not only that but Universities, where people often leave home for the first time and suffer new-found stress, can often provide settings which have the potential to be damaging to someone’s mental health and eating patterns. But help is always there and aiding people in finding it is what my role as a Young Ambassador entails. To everyone who approached me – thank you for sharing your stories with me. I commend your bravery for speaking out about something so sensitive and personal to a stranger, but by speaking up and defeating silence we can help beat eating disorders - just by talking you’re already helping more than you know.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week proved to be a success, with plenty of fundraising and high attendance at public lectures concerning the stigma of eating disorders; yet there is still the future to look forward to. There is an Understanding Eating Disorders training day on 28th March in London which is CPD certified and created to help professionals and individuals understand more about the prevalence of eating disorders (which can be viewed by following this link - http://www.b-eat.co.uk/support-us/for-professionals/training/understanding-eating-disorders/) – so let your local GP know about it! Not only that but Beat have joined forces with Cosmopolitan to help GP’S become less absorbed on the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder. They have created an open letter for people to download, print and hand in to your local GP surgery (which can be found by following this link - http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/lifestyle/big-issue/eating-disorders-awareness-campaign). This seemingly small act can contribute towards ending stigma and stifling criteria’s that lead to some sufferers waiting over two years before they receive medical attention, purely because their bodies aren’t deemed “ill” enough. All too often this is too late and every person I spoke to during EDAW agreed that they couldn’t believe how long the waiting list for care is.
As for Cambridge, I’m currently in talks with Cambridge University about creating a merged support group for sufferers at both Universities who either want to find out how to access help or who just want to take a step in the right direction. If you would like to get involved, either to help or get help, then please do e-mail me – firstname.lastname@example.org – and I will begin adding you to the group. Furthermore I’m also currently in the process of arranging a meeting with Cambridge’s MP to discuss the issues and stigma surrounding eating disorders which is preventing sufferers accessing appropriate care. The main point is to get across the fact that methods of prevention need to be put in to practice to stop deterioration rather than only pursuing the support of the acutely afflicted. If you want any more information of the ongoing nature of this, please do e-mail me. But for now – watch this space!
If you think someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder please seek more information. You can contact me for more links to help or visit Beat’s website at: