by Eating Difficulties Peer Support Group
Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK are living with an eating disorder diagnosis. Many more experience eating difficulties that are undiagnosed, and young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are at the highest risk of developing mental health problems. Eating difficulties are particularly prevalent in the student population, yet often not talked about.
There is a common misconception that eating difficulties affect only white, middle class, young women, when in fact they do not discriminate based on age, socioeconomic status, race or gender. However misconceptions such as this contribute to the stigma associated with having an eating difficulty.
Living with an eating difficulty can be extremely isolating and the lack of conversation around them can perpetuate it. That’s why this Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2020 (EDAW) we aimed to open up the conversation around eating difficulties. Peer support is particularly important in opening up conversations; healthy and supportive relationships are fundamental in the journey to recovery. EDAW is a nationwide campaign, hosted by the charitable organisation Beat who do amazing work in raising awareness of eating disorders, as well as offering resources and support services for those experiencing eating disorders as well as their parents and carers.
The Eating Difficulties Peer Support group offers a safe space for students living with eating difficulties to meet up and share their experiences. It runs weekly (Mondays at 7pm) and is run by fellow students who facilitate the group to maintain a recovery-focused and non-judgemental space. We welcome anyone at any stage of their journey, whether you have recently recognised you may be experiencing difficulties or have been experiencing difficulties for a longer time.
We ran a whole week of events, including a film screening of a body positivity documentary “Embrace” with a Q&A from local counsellor Gill Wilson, an incredibly moving drama performance from the perspective of having lived experience from Florrie Taylor and a Meet and Greet session for people to meet our lovely team. Particular successes throughout the week include the following…
The Love Your Body Campaign. Building from this year’s theme Come as You Are, which is all about building on setbacks or challenges to work towards accepting yourself and others, we ran a “Love Your Body” campaign. Students were invited to think about what parts of themselves they love and share it with us to create a display. It was interesting to see how difficult people found it to isolate a part of themselves they love and to me really showed how infrequently we are encouraged to celebrate parts of ourselves. Despite this, we had an overwhelming response throughout the week with a huge variety of responses, celebrating appearance features and what their bodies allow them to do – really challenging the automatic thought that many of us hold when asked that question: “nothing”.
Professor Janet Treasure’s talk. Prof. Janet Treasure is the leading expert in the field of eating disorders and visited from King’s College London to give a talk on the cutting-edge research in the field. Clinicians, students and staff members attended the talk which was followed by a Q&A, where Janet discussed the importance of peer support and relationships in recovery from an eating disorder.
Eating Disorders Awareness Fair. On the Thursday (University Mental Health Day), the eating disorders awareness fair hosted a range of societies and groups who banded together to spread awareness of mental health and eating disorders. Thank you to everyone who came along, including the University Wellbeing Services, the Community Eating Disorders Services, Mind Your Head, Nightline, the Positive Wellbeing Peer Support Group, Meditation Society and UNICEF.
Mindful Fern Potting Session. We collaborated with Nightline and had a lovely time on the Friday of EDAW, mindfully potting ferns from Hutch and decorating the pots, to close the busy week on a calm note!
Thank you to everyone who helped out with the events and came along to spread awareness! We look forward to continuing to spread awareness of eating difficulties and beat the stigma associated with them in to the next year.