A campaign to break down myths and misunderstanding about anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other food-related health problems has taken place in Bournemouth.
Bournemouth University, supported by Dorset HealthCare, hosted a series of events to mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week (22-28 February), highlighting the illnesses which afflict people of all ages – and the help available to overcome them.
As well as talks by a number of local people sharing their own experiences of battling the problem, staff from the Dorset Eating Disorders service were on hand to answer questions, give advice and signpost people to further support.
Award-winning comic Dave Chawner took a sideways look at the issue with his stand-up show ‘Normally Abnormal’, while local schools and businesses were urged to ‘Sock It to Eating Disorders’ by wearing silly socks on Friday (26 February) to help raise both awareness and money.
Eating Disorders Awareness Week was launched by national charity Beat, and aims to promote greater understanding of the illnesses, their causes and the support available.
Last year, there were 419 referrals to Dorset HealthCare’s eating disorders service, men and women – with the youngest person just ten years old.
BBC journalist and BU graduate Sarah Robertson shared her experiences of living with an eating disorder with two talks as a part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week. She said, "I think it is vital that these events that Bournemouth University have put on are put on more often because the only way we are going to get people to talk about eating disorders is by hearing about it more often, that's how we break down that stigma.
"I hope [this event] provides people with hope that recovery is possible. There are 1.6 million people in the UK living with an eating disorder and I think everybody knows somebody, its so true, so I hope by learned experiences of people who have lived it and been there we can have more compasssion for people."
Dr Ciarán Newell, the Trust’s Consultant Nurse on eating disorders, said in advance of the Awareness Week: “There is still a great deal of ignorance about eating disorders. Conditions such as anorexia and bulimia are serious illnesses, and don’t just affect teenage girls and young women.
“But recovery is always possible, especially if people are aware of what to look out for and we can intervene early. This week will showcase some fantastic stories of recovery, and we would urge other people to come forward and share their experiences. They can offer real hope to people currently dealing with eating disorders.”
As a part of the awareness raising activity, two video case studies about living with, and overcoming, eating disorders were created, these are available to watch online:
Dr James Palfreman-Kay, Equality and Diversity Advisor for Bournemouth University, said: “We have continued to see more people coming forward to talk about living with an eating disorder. The close partnership between BU and the Trust has provided an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of eating disorders within and outside Dorset.”