I’m not writing this post for the sake of it. I’m not writing this post to shit all over the NHS. I’m not writing this post for any reason other than that I’m angry. I’m angry at the government for not caring about mental health, I’m angry that mental health isn’t taken as seriously as physical health, and I’m goddamn angry that people are committing suicide because they aren’t getting the help they desperately need.
This week, I attended an assessment at the Eating Disorder Services in my area (North West). It took around 3 months for the assessment appointment, which I could deal with as I understand services are massively underfunded and busy. The appointment went okay and the psychologist I saw was extremely empathetic, understanding and lovely. I could tell she was lovely by the utter remorse she showed when she told me I’d have to wait 9 months to start treatment.
I have suffered from an eating disorder for 7-8 years, but because I’m not underweight anymore I have to wait 9 months for the help it has taken me so many years to build up the courage to ask for. Now, of course, this is not any of the staffs fault. The NHS staff are being rushed off their feet simply trying to do their jobs, helping those in need, and are simply too understaffed and underfunded to help people adequately. This isn’t their fault. The blame lies with the government.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand extremely underweight people need to be seen quicker than someone at a healthy weight. That makes sense to me. But that doesn’t mean someone who isn’t underweight should have to wait 9 months – that is unacceptable. It sends the message that someone who is a healthy weight isn’t ill enough for treatment and has to lose weight before they receive the help they desperately need, which is an extremely dangerous and triggering message to give to eating disorder sufferers.
People bang on about how people should ask for help instead of feeling ashamed of their illness.. Well what happens when people are asking for help and just aren’t getting it? That’s the real problem. Asking for help is one thing; actually getting the help is a completely different issue. The government can sit and pretend they care about mental health all they like, but where’s the funding NHS mental health services so desperately need?
Eating disorders are such an incredibly secret illness for many sufferers anyway, so when they finally ask for help and get sent away for month on end it can be devastating. Many will wonder ‘what’s the point in asking for help if I’m not going to be taken seriously?’ as well as feeling they are ‘not ill enough’ to seek treatment and therefore should lose more weight, which is obviously extremely dangerous.
According to Priory Group, Around 10% of people affected by an eating disorder suffer from anorexia nervosa. This leads me to wonder… why is anorexia far too often considered the only dangerous eating disorder? An individual does not have to be severely underweight to be struggling from an eating disorder. Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder, OSFED, atyplical disorders etc) are a MENTAL disorder. They are not a physical illness. Weight loss is a symptom of the mental disorder.
When will eating disorder sufferers that aren’t underweight receive the help they need? According to the above source, 40% of people affected by an eating disorder suffer from bulimia nervosa. The majority of people suffering from bulimia are a healthy weight or overweight.. That doesn’t mean they aren’t severely damaging their health through their disordered habits.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates among psychiatric disorders. Remember that when you pass them off as ‘a phase’, ‘attention seeking’ or tell the sufferer to sit on a 9 month waiting list.
It’s been proven that the earlier that eating disorder treatment is sought, the better the sufferer’s chance of recovery. Eating disorder sufferers NEED help and they need it now, not in 9 months.