THIS week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Our reporter Becky Waldren spoke to a counselor and eating disorder blogger about how she is helping to spread the message.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week launched yesterday throughout the UK in order to raise the profile of eating disorders.
A few years ago the illness was spoken about less and misunderstood by many as only something which was marginalised to a certain age, gender or sex.
Kel O’Neill, 30, from Ellesmere Port in Cheshire is a counsellor, trainer and award nominated blogger specialising in eating disorders.
— Maverick Baking (@MaverickBaking) February 27, 2017
Located in Whitby, Ellesmere Port, Ms O’Neill runs a small, discreet health clinic which she opened 5 years ago.
From personal experience she began getting involved in ‘b-eat’, the leading eating disorder charity in the UK and quickly discovered a passion for the field, before training as a counsellor and starting her blog, www.mentalhealthbites.com , in 2015.
As well as counselling, Mrs O’Neill runs training courses amongst therapists about how to appropriately deal with patients of the illness which she posts about on her blog.
“The blog has become a great way to use my voice to increase people’s knowledge in the area”, she said.
Getting involved in the awareness week, Ms O’Neill aspires to help as many people as she can who are fighting the illness by getting her voice heard.
“Stigma causes people to feel ashamed and not disclose their struggles – so the more we can engage people in an honest conversation hopefully the more people will come forward and access treatment,” she explains.
According to the Eating Disorders-Social Health Impact report which was commissioned and produced by PwC in February 2015, 725,000 people were estimated to be affected by an eating disorder in the UK.
Speaking to Ms O’Neill, she points out that although 14-16 year olds are known to be the most commonly affected, people younger and older are being diagnosed.
She said: “eating disorders don’t discriminate across ages, genders, races or backgrounds.”
Over the week Ms O’Neill will be distributing posters across the local area, working with Youth Scotland and will even be getting her voice heard on local media platforms such as Capital FM and Heart FM radio stations to raise the profile of the week.
She stressed it is vital that anyone who is suffering or knows anyone who is suffering with an eating disorder seeks advice from a professional, with the illness having the highest morality rate due to additional complications that sufferers can get, irrespective of weight.
“We know that the earlier people seek support the better chance they have of a long term recovery, she said.
“It is important that as soon as you are displaying some signs you seek out some therapy – you don’t even have to have a ‘full blown eating disorder’ as we know that early intervention, before symptoms fully take hold results in the best outcomes.”