September 21st, 2011

Figures release by the NHS this week show a near four-fold increase in the number of young people under 25 receiving weight loss surgery on the NHS. Between 2009 and 2010 a record 210 of the gastric band operations were carried out, compared to just 55 between 2006 and 2007. Of that 210, thirty four were performed on people under 19.

Read more via the link…..

August 23rd, 2011

Happy August Keep Smilin’ lovelies, I am sat in the sun while I write this, today I wanted to touch on a subject which has really hit a nerve this month, the random picture is me and one of my best friends, relevant how? Well read on!

Read more via the link……

August 1st, 2011

"Today, the NHS has released figures showing a worrying trend in the number of young people receiving treatment from the NHS for eating disorders.

The figures indicate that in the last three years 98 children between the ages of five and seven were admitted to hospitals due to disordered eating, alongside 99 aged eight and nine and almost 400 between ten and twelve.

Also around 1,500 teenagers between thirteen and fifteen have been hospitalised for severe disordered eating in the same period.”

Read more and my opinions via the link.

July 22nd, 2011

Is Mental Illness ever a gift? It’s certainly not something on my Christmas list!

Rethink, the national mental health campaign aimed at changing attitudes to mental illness have been asking a rather peculiar question about mental health, it’s a clever question and one that has got many people talking…….

Is mental illness ever a gift?

The word gift to me describes something I want, something nice, maybe even pretty.

Mental illness is none of those, in fact I find it quite damaging that it could ever be described as a ‘gift’. When has any other illness been labelled a gift, in fact I bet you wouldn’t dare call cancer or any other physical illness a ‘gift’.

The purpose of Rethink and many other campaigns is to break down the stigma around mental illness and to use the word ‘gift’ is simply trivialising the problem. You can almost make it sound like a positive thing, and that doesn’t help anything does it?

On the flip side……

People who experience mental illness often report coming out of it with a wider breadth of experience, greater empathy and heightened emotional awareness, which is certainly a positive thing.

For me it has defined what I do with my time, of which I spend a great deal helping others with mental health problems, raising awareness and even running a national charity for eating disorders.

But that is not a gift to me, it is however, a positive outcome from what was the worst period of my life that anything else will find very difficult to top.

Getting Personal…..

This is not something I often write about, but something I feel the need to explain to show what I have been saying.

Most people who read my blog will guess that I have suffered from an eating disorder, but it is really the surface of what was a very difficult time, which I was lucky enough to resolve and become a better person because of. As I said, it was the worst period of my life, which if I ever had the choice I would never have experienced. I probably wouldn’t do what I do now, I probably would have been someone totally different, but I would rather that than experience the hell of mental illness.

I mean, how could you call starving yourself, harming yourself and trying to take your own life a gift?

Scared to touch a morsel of food and constantly punishing yourself.

The periods in hospital, being constantly watched because they are scared you might try and do it again all the while feeling like you are nothing, like you just want to die.

Every night crying yourself to sleep, wishing you would never wake up, and when you do wake, looking at yourself in disgust, hating every inch of your body and soul.

Or maybe that time when you wake in hospital and the first thing they are doing is pouring charcoal down your throat, because of all those tablets you took.

Hurting everyone around you, when you try to take your own life for the 7th time and they find you in a heap on your bedroom floor.

And still, four years after recovering, having the constant reminder of who you once were when you look at the scars on your arms or maybe seeing a photo from when you look like what I can only describe as a ghost.

The reality……

These are the highlights or my teenage years, not something I would have chosen.

Yes I recovered, yes it has made me successful in mental health campaigning and yes maybe it did make me a more empathetic and understanding person.

But if I had to give up one of them, I would rather never have had the illness in the first place. 

So how in the hell I ask myself, can you call what I have shared with you all above, a gift?

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.