As this week is Eating Disorder Awareness week, I thought this column would be a good place to talk about an issue that affects over 1.25million people in the United Kingdom.
It is likely that we all know someone affected by eating disorders. They can be serious or acute, and they can be obvious, or they can be invisible.
There are many different types of Eating Disorder, but they do all have one thing in common: the earlier they are treated, the more effective and the quicker treatment and recovery can be.
People wait on average around 3 and a half years after falling ill before starting treatment. As a society, we have made a lot of progress breaking the stigma of mental health, to try to ensure that as many people as possible feel like they can talk about the issues they face as early as possible after they have emerged.
It is important that we take time out to help each other and check up on our friends and family- sometimes it only takes a quiet conversation or a text, but it can make the world of difference.
But at the same time, it is not just up to us; whilst this can do so much for people, we desperately need the government to invest in services too.
The upcoming Budget, in which the government decides where it is to allocate spending for the next year, is a great opportunity to put the government’s commitment to Mental Health to the test.
We need proper investment in services, to bring down waiting times for Eating Disorders. Early intervention is key, and our current situation leaves people waiting for months for treatment, if they are even referred at all. This has to change.
There have also been numerous examples of people being turned away from treatment because their BMI is not low enough.
Whilst the NICE guidelines state this shouldn’t happen, I have spoken to people in my surgeries in Sunderland who have themselves been turned away.
This is why I support Hope Virgo’s campaign to #DumpTheScales and take BMI out of diagnosis once and for all.
Turning people away from treatment leads them to making themselves more ill in order to find treatment, it makes recovery much harder, and it makes relapse more likely.
This Eating Disorder Awareness week, we want to make sure that those who need treatment have the services they so need, and that we have services that can identify, treat and care for those with Eating Disorders at the early opportunity.
** If you need to talk to someone about Eating Disorders, about yourself or about someone you know, you can call the Beat Helpline on 0808 801 0677, or find out more at