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Eating disorders are incredibly challenging and damaging illnesses for suffers, family and friends alike. February 22nd-29th marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016, an international awareness week that aims to fight the myths surrounding eating disorders, and remove some of the clouds surrounding treatment, support and options. Here are five ways you can get involved to help.
1 – Put on an awareness event
The best way you can raise awareness of eating disorders is to do something that helps eating disorders to be talked about in an open and unstigmatised way. Last year, Student Minds put on events such as a ‘Walk for Wellbeing’, a ‘Love Your Body’ campaign and drop-in sessions where eating disorders could be spoken about in a free and non-judgemental environment. Leading eating disorder charity Beat runs a #SockIt campaign, where everyone wears silly socks to raise awareness – you can register for your free ‘Sock It’ here so you can easily set up a campaign in Southampton to raise awareness this week!
2 – Eating disorder support groups
The University of Southampton runs a free, weekly support group that meets on campus every Tuesday from 6.30-8pm. Sessions are open to anyone and you can come and go as you please. Find out more information here.
3 – Familiarise yourself with the support available
There is a wealth of support out there for anybody affected by an eating disorder. Beat is the UK’s leading charity, with an excellent website with easily accessible information for sufferers and carers alike; more resources and contacts can be found on this Uni web page that aims to support and guide students with eating disorders. Likewise, there are Uni-specific support systems such as Student Minds, The Advice Centre, and also Nightline, which you can call confidentially every evening in term time between 8pm and 8am.
4 – Remember everyone affected by an eating disorder needs support
Eating disorders can affect not only the individuals fighting against them but their family, friends and acquaintances as well. It can be incredibly challenging to support someone through an eating disorder, which can be an extremely isolating and frustrating experience. It’s important to remember that everyone needs someone to lean on in times of crisis, and more people than purely those battling an eating disorder will be affected by them.
5 – Remove the stigma!
The more openly eating disorders are talked about, the freer sufferers will feel to seek help for themselves. There are so many myths swirling around eating disorders – from something as ignorant as ‘It’s all about food’, to something as ludicrous as ‘Boys don’t get them’. All these stereotypes need to be cleared out the way to raise awareness of eating disorders. You can see a full list of myths debunked on this page. Equally, if you have a personal experience of an eating disorder you can become a Young Ambassador and raise awareness through five main areas – campaigning, fundraising, healthcare, education and the media. Young Ambassadors work on ‘reducing the stigma and educating others about eating disorders’, so this is one of the best ways of channelling personal experience into a positive outlet.
A recent survey estimates that between 750,000 and 1.6 million people in the UK are battling eating disorders; we need to raise awareness and remove the stigma that stops people reaching out for help.