This week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Who knew? Huh.
I am going out on a limb here and I’m going to guess that not too many of you knew that? I mean, why would you, it hasn’t really been on ANY mainstream media outlets…or did I miss something?
I kind of doubt I missed it, as I’ve been at home all week recovering from a small procedure, so I have been watching my fair share of daytime T.V, talk shows and news programmes. Nothing. Nada. Why?
Well, first of all, everyone has been too obsessed with the bloomin’ weather and telling us that it’s been snowing all week…just in case we don’t have eyes or somehow hadn’t realised that oh so shocking fact.
Apart from that, well it just isn’t a priority. I mean I get that there are wars and Donald Trump is being…well, Donald Trump, and Brexit is a never-ending issue. I’m not taking away from how important those issues are.
But, for one week, just one week, you would think we could shine a light on the estimated 1.25 million people in the UK who have an eating disorder.
There must have been a spare fifteen minutes somewhere to discuss the fact that the number of people diagnosed with an eating disorder has increased by 15% since 2000.
Hasn’t there been a news slot anywhere in the last seven days to raise awareness of anorexia nervosa, the mental illness with the highest mortality rate?
Or is the snow more important? Oh sorry, the ‘beast from the east’.
What about the beast that lives in 1.9% of women and 0.2% of men. The beast that tells them they aren’t good enough. They are ugly, disgusting, unworthy. Is that not news worthy?
I don’t believe it’s because people don’t care. People care. It just makes them uncomfortable. It makes people speak in hushed voices when we talk about mental illness. We can’t see it, we can’t treat it with a pill, we don’t understand it. I have an eating disorder and I still don’t understand it.
But that is precisely why it should have been on every talk show, every news outlet, every social media platform, at some point this week. To get people to speak up. Not just people who have experienced it, but those who know nothing about it. Those are the people who need to hear about it. To end the stigma. To end the discomfort and louden the hushed tones.
Eating disorders are not simple, they are not easy, and they are not ‘minor illnesses’. They are complex, they are tough, and they are serious.
I think it confuses people. ‘Why can’t you just eat more?’ ‘Just cut back on the exercise for a while,’ ‘You just need a good feed,’… nope, nope and definitely not. I imagine that as I write more about it, I might find the words to describe some of what goes on. But it is incredibly difficult to explain, which then makes it very understandable that those of you who have (thankfully) never experienced it, don’t quite know how to talk about it or what to do about it.
Given that these illnesses are so widely misunderstood, it would be great to have seen some solid education during the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
It would have been great to have highlighted some of the incredible stories that survivors have been telling. Anna Saccone, a very successful youtuber told her story this week. Beat, the eating disorder charity highlighted some great stories this week also. NEDA have also been doing great work to raise awareness.
The only problem with all this, is that the majority of the ‘awareness raising’ is happening within platforms that have followers who already have some kind of experience in this area. It’s not mainstream. It isn’t reaching the people who don’t know about these illnesses.
So, even though the week has come to a close, I think we can do some of our own awareness raising. If you could, just by sharing this post, or liking the Beat Facebook page, or sharing Anna Saccone’s blog post, you are helping the cause. You are helping to louden those hushed voices.
Maybe someday soon, people’s mental health will be more important news than the snow. Hey, you can only hope.