August 21st, 2011

Men with eating disorders, their carers’, friends and professionals working in the field will benefit from a new book to fill the void market that is literature aimed towards men with eating disorders.

Read more via the link…….

July 13th, 2011

Are eating disorders in men really on the rise?

So today has seen a bit of a storm, well a media one anyway. All day on the BBC, in the Independent and in various other outlets eating disorders in men has been a hot topic.

This is following a report by GP’s that there is a rise in men seeking help for eating disorders and a whopping increase in the amount of men being hospitalised because of them.

I had my stint on BBC Oxford today talking about the issue and also a little bit of how I became involved in MGEDT and Eating disorder & Body image campaigning, this was a great opportunity for me to air some of my views on the subject of the rise in eating disorders and I wanted to put some of them in writing this evening, so here it is……

In my eyes we can look at this rise in several ways, first and foremost in my mind this morning when this was all going on was a simple fact, while there is still a long way to go, men are beginning to find doctors and health professionals more approachable. With the massive rise in men’s health awareness and mental health publicity and of course the work charities like the one I work for do to raise awareness, it could be said that the issues is out there, people are slowly become more aware and the stigma is slowly being broken down.

This, alongside the improved peer support, would theoretically make it easier for men to seek help for disordered eating, are we as a society actually becoming more accepting of mental health, especially of a mental illness which has a real gender stigma?

We then of course have the flip side of the argument, could there be a genuine rise in the number of cases of eating disorders in men?

With the pressure in society ever on the increase to attain a certain physical attraction or look a certain way it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if disorders around body image, disordered eating and self-esteem issues were on the increase. 

But I have also always maintained that the way you feel about your appearance will never alone cause an eating disorder, but it can certainly fuel the fire. I have always strongly believed that they are an unhealthy coping strategy of sorts, a way of trying to deal with difficult circumstances, negative emotion and problems you face. But with the constant bombardment of advertising, negative talk about bodies and the assumed body ideal constantly flaunted could it indeed trigger the start of an eating disorder?

These are questions that I don’t think I will ever answer, because an eating disorder is very different from individual to individual, some people will harness the route of their problems surrounding food with body image while others will take life experiences as the root cause, some, like me, may even feel it to be a combination of the two.

So my first question to myself was ‘are eating disorders in men actually on the rise?’ I have managed to ask myself a few more questions since then, but I don’t think the answer is that cut and dry.

Maybe more men are coming forward to seek that all important help, but maybe it is also the case that more men are falling foul of eating disorders.

It would make sense to me for it to be a combination of both factors, it would fit with the pressures and shift in today’s society on both levels, both the pressure to aspire and the openness for discussion to take place about sensitive issues.

Regardless, I think we need to see what has been reported today in a slightly positive light, because for the first time ever, more men are actually coming forward and seeking help, and have not been ashamed to do it. If the men that have created this statistic have come forward, then it means everyone can make that brave step towards recovery.

What do you think? is it that men are feeling more compelled to come forward? or is it that eating disorders are alarmingly on the rise in men? Could it indeed be a combination of factors? do let me know your thoughts.

 

June 15th, 2011

Men’s Health Week - Online Peer Support

With the digital theme of Men’s health week this year I made the promise to blog about digital intervention in mental illness, this one is all about peer support and the important role it can play online.

While no substitute for proper medical help, the internet can be used in conjunction to ease the isolation and sometimes secrecy found with mental illness. Anonymity I believe plays a big part in this, after all if no-one knows who the person is there is an air of safety for the user. 

Peer support is one such way to achieve this anonymous intervention with a unique twist, the support is provided by fellow sufferers. It offers people a fantastic network of people who are going through similar experiences or feelings and can help people to feel less isolated and often promotes people to seek professional medical help. I have always thought of peer support in two parts, you come into the peer support network, which gives you the strength to face your problem head on and seek help, and then many use these networks on-going to strengthen their support networks.

Peer support has a vital role in my opinion when dealing with mental health. It does, however, need to be monitored and moderated carefully to ensure it remains a safe environment for people to use.

For example, with eating disorders that affect men there is a particular level of secrecy and shame in admitting their disorder and coming forward to seek help. While we fight to break down that stigma it is incredibly important that existing sufferers are supported, the charity I help run Men Get Eating Disorders Too does such a thing.

We provide a forum to men at present, which gives men a safe space to express themselves and speak openly about their disorders and the complications surrounding them. It can be used to share experiences, positive coping strategies and almost enables men to support eachother through recovery.

We will be enhancing this in the near future with a live chat feature, to enable men to come and chat to other men, and the people that run the charity at set, sometimes themed sessions revolving around recovery, positive coping mechanisms and support.  We can enhance these live chats and improve their effectiveness by doing many things, including guest moderators who are specialists in different areas for example nutritionists, therapists and indeed people who have recovered from the very disorders we talk about.

With careful moderation and planning, peer support online can be a very powerful tool in aiding recovery from mental illness, when we speak about men this week, we look at the barriers that stop men from accessing services, one of the major ones is stigma. With this anonymous approach we can encourage men to engage on all levels about their health, which is what this week is all about. 

For some good examples of peer support in mental health check out…..

Men Get Eating Disorders Too Forum

National Self Harm Network Forum

June 14th, 2011

An Introduction to Men’s Health Week.

So this week see’s the annual event for Men everywhere, Men’s Health Week, which addresses the health needs of men, but why do we need a week dedicated to the health of men?

It is a long standing fact that men do not like to talk about their problems, whether it be relationships, lumps, bumps, emotions or feelings, they are all things that many men seem to feel reluctant to talk about. I have often wondered why that was, as I have on the whole always been fairly good at talking about myself and indeed any problems I have had rather openly, or so I thought.

As I started to dig deeper into my past, and really think about how open I was with people I started to surprise even myself, my mental health problems as a teenager, they must have started early and yet I kept them a secret for years, even when they were forced out I chose to ignore them. But why was this?

I was scared, afraid and worried, not of the problems themselves, but of how other people would see me, after all I didn’t want to be viewed as a just another “problem”. I think the one major issue I thought I faced at the time was to have people seeing me as “weak”, which is now officially a word I hate!

The point is I eventually started talking, and once I did it, it became a whole lot easier!

While the problems surrounding stigma are gender neutral and affect everyone, especially when we are talking about mental illness, if you couple this with the reluctance of discussion in men about health then you have a bigger problem.

For men to talk about their health problems, especially emotional ones can be seen to strip one of their masculinity, it’s largely not an accepted conversation to be had with a bunch of lads, I remember the first paragraph of a blog I wrote for an eating disorder recovery website, It strikes me as a rather true (although generalist) statement;

"Football, Rugby and beer, three things guaranteed to get a lot of men talking! But if I was to walk into that same room and bring up the subject of eating disorders, deathly silence. That silence would be followed by the usual assumptions that eating disorders are a “girl’s illness” and “oh that’s what model’s get”. So when it comes to getting help, are we so surprised that men just don’t come forward?"

Does it ring true to you, can you have a conversation about mental health with your group of mates?

While I accept it is not always the easiest conversation to have, it should be one that people can feel able to have with their mates. The debate about men and talking has sparked numerous campaigns supporting men’s health and trying to make health easier to talk about, which has worked to an extent in opening the dialogue between the health professional and the male, but not much has concentrated on engaging fellow men.

This is what Men’s health week is dedicated to, making sure that men feel able to speak about their issues, the theme this year is digital, looking at ways we can embrace the internet to improve outcomes amongst men.

So this week I am going to try and do a couple of blogs about the digital world and how it can be used to improve outcomes in men with mental health issues, while encouraging men to engage in conversation about their “feelings” and “emotions” using the charity I help run as an example, alongside others.

So do look out for my blogs on digital health and Men during the week and let’s see if we can get men talking!

June 3rd, 2011

"Boredorexia!"

Yes that’s right I’m bored, bit of a stupid way to say it don’t you think?

Actually I am sick and tired of hearing it, the title of this blog in itself is a contradiction, but read on and I promise to explain…… 

There seems to be a media trend with some (but not all) outlets thinking that to add “rexia” to the end of a word suddenly makes it sensational, grabbing and in some strange way sexy, like it is in “in” thing almost.

In the last couple of weeks a couple of new ones have emerged “Drunkorexia” which is an attempt to describe people who don’t eat before they go out drinking, and then possibly the funniest one I have ever seen “Blondarexia” which the lovely people at the daily mail dreamed up that I won’t even begin to explain, it is just that ridiculous. 

I can look at these names and take them with a pinch of salt, as I know all too well the devastating effect of the real “rexia”, Anorexia is a serious condition, which could be downplayed when throwing around made up terms, just to make them sound like it.

But what if you are not aware of the true seriousness of eating disorders, could it be that some people would see these made up terms and treat anorexia in the same, light-hearted way as they do these other articles?

In a condition that is still very misunderstood by a lot of people do we really need silly titles and made up conditions downplaying the seriousness of an illness, which kills, often. Do we really need to give people another excuse to ridicule these disorders and treat them less seriously or shall we just go on to call everything we want to sensationalise a “rexia”.

So now we know where the title comes from, a lame attempt to sensationalise my blog, did it work, am I a craze yet?

Rant over, and now to the serious bit!

There is a term I hate most of all, and that is “Manorexia” which if you haven’t guessed is used by a lot (again not all) of the media outlets to describe anorexia in Men. Now it’s witty, I will give them that, but frankly it doesn’t take much to stick an M in front of a word that already exists!

You can do it with everything, Men can start suffering from “Mancer” or have a “Manputation” (I can’t take credit for these play’s on words, courtesy of a guy from facebook who I hope doesn’t mind that I use them!)

We could do it to everything involving Men’s health, in fact while we are there let’s make it even harder to approach a sex that is known for already being notoriously bad at seeing doctor’s and talking about their health issues!

Suddenly I may be criticised, for mocking serious illnesses and if that’s the case, do tell me why is it ok to do it to Anorexia? Which is just a serious and just as damaging to the life’s of those who suffer from it, and the people around them.

Why does Anorexia need a special term? Why does it need to be separated out from just “Anorexia”? No matter which way you look at it, the eating disorder is the same, it’s the same weight loss, it’s the same emotional turmoil, it is after all the same illness.

I campaign to try and make sure Men are treated the same when getting help for eating disorders, so that the stigma that it is a “girl’s” illness is broken down and to make sure Men don’t suffer in silence.

How are we supposed to achieve that objective if it is dubbed as something different, even mocked and downplayed, after all it is only “Manorexia”.