New campaign, #ChangeTheStory, launched this week by The Hearts Minds and Genes Coalition; alongside research from Ipsos Mori.
Eating disorders are serious, biologically based mental illnesses deserving of equal clinical and research funding to that given to other complex diseases. We want to ensure that no one with an eating disorder needs to experience shame or guilt, and everybody should have timely access to specialist services.
Author and Multi-Award winning campaigner, Hope Virgo who chairs the coalition said:
“When we think of eating disorders we often immediately think of a white teenage, emaciated girl and fail to realise that eating disorders are so often hidden in plain sight amongst all ages, genders races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations and socio-economic statuses. The campaign is working to remove the stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds these illnesses, ensuring that nobody should experience shame or guilt for suffering from an eating disorder and to make sure that everybody has prompt access to specialist services.”
Eating disorders are not new illnesses, but there has been a massive rise in cases during the pandemic. Unacceptable delays before treatment mean we are also seeing a rise in avoidable chronic long-term illness and loss of life. We need to ensure that we are no longer hiding behind the global pandemic but ensuring that the right support is in place for everyone because no one should be dying of an eating disorder in 2022. We are working to remove the stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds these illnesses, ensuring that nobody should experience shame or guilt for suffering from a biologically based illness and everybody should have timely access to specialist services.
To raise awareness of the campaign we have created a video supported by Instagram. For a long time, people have used Instagram to challenge stereotypes about body size, share their journeys with overcoming body image issues, and celebrate different body types.
Renee McGregor, leading Sports and Eating disorder specialist dietitian said:
“We need to change the images, narrative and practices presently associated with eating disorders in order to ensure that no further lives are lost to this illness in 2022 or beyond.”
Suzanne Baker, Carer Representative for F.E.A.S.T. (www.feast-ed.org) in the UK, said:
“Timely access to sustained, specialist treatment is key to recovery from an eating disorder at any age or stage. Currently, too many people are not able to access this treatment often due to misconceptions about what an eating disorder ‘looks’ like. There is no one look – eating disorders are serious biologically influenced illnesses and are often hidden in plain sight.
Dr Agnes Ayton, chair of the Eating Disorders Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“No one chooses to have an eating disorder. An eating disorder can affect anyone at any age and can be caused by a range of factors including genes, mental or physical health conditions and social pressure. The stigma around having an eating disorder prevents many people from asking for help when they need it. No one should feel embarrassed to ask for help. An eating disorder can have very serious long-term effects on the body, but with treatment, people can fully recover. Raising awareness of this issue is an important first step in helping people to get the help they need. If you think you may have an eating disorder, speak to your GP who can refer you to a specialist counsellor, psychiatrist or psychologist. You can also visit the NHS Choices website to find out what additional support is available, including confidential helplines.”
Gerome Breen, Professor of Psychiatric Genetics at King’s College London said:
“Research and its dissemination are essential to dispelling the unhelpful myths and stigma that surround eating disorders and compound their long-lasting and devastating impacts. By understanding more about why and how eating disorders develop we can improve society’s conceptualisation of these conditions and hopefully enable more people to seek and receive the support they need.”