Almost 20,000 people are living with an eating disorder in Northern Ireland
Those behind the core support service in Northern Ireland for those suffering from an eating disorder have called for greater recognition of the illness. The call comes amidst Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018 which takes place this week, 26 February to 4 March.
It is estimated between 18,000 and 20,000 people will be struggling with an eating disorder in Northern Ireland at any one time. Eating disorders are often misunderstood with much stigma attached to them. However, eating disorders are in actual fact serious psychological illnesses.
Anorexia has the highest mortality rate amongst all the psychiatric illnesses with 20% of people with anorexia dying either by physical complications or suicide. Research suggests that on average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost three years.
The Eating Disorders Association Northern Ireland is the main voluntary organisation in Northern Ireland offering support to those with an eating disorder with a wide range of services. With very limited care available through the health service or elsewhere the organisation is coming under increasing pressure to provide support to all those who need it.
Eating Disorders Association NI Project Manager, Ann McCann said;
“We’ve been hearing the calls for greater and improved mental health care in Northern Ireland and eating disorders need to be recognised as a fundamental element of poor mental health.
“An eating disorder is a serious psychological illness with no single cause but rather comes about as a result of a complex interaction of biological, psychological and social factors. Eating disorders are not a choice and they do not discriminate, anyone can suffer from an eating disorder.
“Eating disorders are an illness that affects the whole family. You cannot necessarily tell by looking at someone whether or not they have an eating disorder. Many people are suffering in silence and are unable to access the care they so desperately need.
“The fundamental message though is that recovery is possible. It’s dependent however on early access to the support and care not only those with the illness need but their families too. We are here to offer support to and be a voice for those struggling with this devastating illness but greater understanding and increased support services are desperately needed to save lives.
“For anyone affected by an eating disorder please contact the Eating Disorders Association Northern Ireland on 028 90 235959 or visit http://www.eatingdisordersni.co.uk”