Changing the conversation around Eating Disorders

I went along to the annual conference for the International Association for Youth Mental Health in the UK a few weeks ago, where I heard from many researchers and professionals working in the area of youth mental health. These people are all working endlessly and passionately towards ending stigma and raising awareness for youth mental health. The speaker that really stood out for me was Justin Scaini, a young man who is President of Student Engagement for the Jack Project in Canada. Justin spoke about his work passionately and finished his inspiring speech with the following phrase that he has coined for fighting to end stigma, raise awareness and begin the conversation around youth mental health…

‘’Unleash the noise!’’

 

The phrase has stuck with me since the conference, giving me a sense of some sort of sleeping giant that needs to be awakened. It got me thinking about the power of movements like Justin’s in Canada, for creating real change and raising awareness.

 

From one conference to another, the National Eating Disorders Association’s Annual Conference was happening in the US from October 10th to 12th and the sense of heightening awareness and creating movement for change was emerging in NEDA’s conference theme too. The conference aimed to ‘direct the national spotlight’ on discussions around eating disorders. In the past month or two there has been an inspiring surge towards raising awareness and fighting the stigma of eating disorders.

 

BEDA, the Binge Eating Disorder Association in the US ran a very successful Weight Stigma Awareness Week at the end of September to raise public consciousness around the negative impact of weight stigma, how to combat it and how to promote positive body image. The Butterfly Foundation in Australia provided even more motivation with their Body Image Awareness Week campaign in September that urged us all to ‘’join the revolution’’.

 

NEDA also took this movement a step further by holding a NEDA Federal Eating Disorders Lobby Day on October 10th in conjunction with AED & IAEDP. Reading up about the lobby day I was struck by another phrase that made me think of Justin’s inspirational phrase. NEDA, in thanking all those involved with the campaign, say that ‘’the larger our group, the louder our message’’.

 

It’s clear that to make any change, we need to make our voices, thoughts and opinions heard. Change Panda won’t be shying away from this, as our very own founder Emma Murphy was in the US getting involved in the conference and lobby day. One voice, yours perhaps, added to the ever growing number can have a substantial impact.

 

With Mental Illness Awareness Week happening last week from October 6th to 12th and World Mental Health Day falling on the same day NEDA aims to lobby in the US, now is the time to begin the conversation around eating disorders, to fight against stigma and raise awareness. Importantly, the awareness around the implications of eating disorders on mental health is also rising.

 

Eating disorders often occur alongside other mental health difficulties. For example, this week is OCD Awareness Week, and often times there is confusion between OCD and Eating Disorders, as they often exhibit many of the same behaviours. However, the more apparent physical implications and behaviours of eating disorders can prevent someone from realizing the underlying mental health issues that can both result from, or possibly be the true cause of, eating disorders. Take Binge Eating Disorder for example, which has finally gained recent recognition among professionals as a mental health issue. In both the professional and public spheres, the conversations around eating disorders are increasing, awareness is being raised among the public, and people are beginning to use their voices to look for change, acknowledgement and movement around eating disorders.

 

If you would like to get involved, check out the organizations mentioned above for more information and follow us on Facebook where we cover the latest events and movements in the field of eating disorders.

Have you ever been involved in any movements or events like the one’s happening at the minute, or do you have any ideas around making a change and starting the conversation around eating disorders? Leave a comment and let us know!

Be the change...

Alanna Donnelly

Assistant Psychologist at Change Panda