Eating Disorder Awareness 2016
Today marks the start of Eating Disorder Awareness week 2016 – a hugely important event because, although there’s little doubt people appreciate that eating disorders exist, there still remains huge misconceptions around what they are and why they continue.
The theme of this year’s campaign is eating disorders in the workplace, and gives us a valuable opportunity to acknowledge that not only do eating disorders affect adults, but they affect adults who otherwise go about relatively normal lives doing unremarkably normal things – just like everyone else. Having an eating disorder doesn’t mean you live in a box and stop engaging with the world, and nor does an eating disorder mean you don’t have something as desperately normal as a job. The challenge for those living with an eating disorder is how to maintain those things – and importantly, not end up judged on the eating disorder but on the skills and qualities that enabled them to get the job in the first place.
Eating disorders are a massive public health concern. They cost the UK’s economy billions (yes, BILLIONS) of pounds every year, all while help and support is becoming much more scarce as cuts are made to vital NHS services. This means we have a generation of adults at risk of not finding recovery at all, which is unacceptable. This legacy will be passed on to the young people already struggling with how they relate to food, and unless something drastic is done to break the cycle, I can’t see a way back.
My hope for this awareness week is that the importance of the workplace will be emphasized. People with eating disorders need to be supported to stay in employment as much as possible, and employers need to be equipped to know how to make that happen, be it with flexible working, adapted responsibilities or in-house support – small changes that may make a huge difference for someone in recovery. Of course, what we really need is for the government to start pumping much more cash into our dear NHS, making it easier for people of all ages to access help, and more funding going towards preventative schemes that might mean people of all ages are protected from developing an eating disorder at all.
If you’re someone who’s struggled with an eating disorder but been well supported by your employer, then this would be a fabulous week to tell them. If you’re an employer who’s not sure how to help someone in your organisation, then I hope this week proves to be a helpful one for you too – you really could help save a life.
For more information about what Beat is up to this week, you can follow this link – https://www.b-eat.co.uk/support-us/eating-disorder-awareness-week You can also join the conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #edaw16.
@FreedomFromHarm | @RachelWelch