‘Student Minds’ Says Young People With Eating Disorders Are ‘Falling Through The Gap’
In the UK, 1.6 million people are affected by an eating disorder, which generally develops in adolescence and early adulthood – around the time students move to higher or future education. Previous research has shown that students at university develop eating disorders at a higher rate than the general population.
In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified. Because many people are reluctant to seek help, it’s hard to put specific numbers to the problem which is why Canada’s estimate for eating disorders ranges between 150 thousand to 600 thousand, while Australia’s is about 9% of the country’s population of 22.68 million people, which is just over 2 million.
Although recovery is possible, fewer than 50% of adults suffering from Anorexia Nervosa recover.
UK mental health charity Student Minds says their recent University Challenge research shows that students with eating disorders are missing up to five years of university, while many see their condition deteriorate further because they are being failed by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
According to Student Minds, current efforts by the NHS to support students are “limited”. Of the students surveyed, more than 70% of those who had spoken to their GP about their disorder were “concerned” about going to see their doctor. Worries included whether their GP would understand them and take their problems seriously and whether confidentiality would be respected.
Many patients in need of treatment are being pushed to the bottom of GP waiting lists after missing appointments due to exams or moving back home during the holidays. One student said the waiting period reinforced their belief that they were not sick enough to need help and made them feel they “wouldn’t ever be taken seriously, so there was no point in bothering”.
The problem is not unique to the UK. Last year, Canada’s CTV News did a report on the dramatic increase of eating disorders across the country as sufferers wait for treatment. The report found that patients who are referred to specialists and qualify for treatment often wait months on end due to a lack of resources, Wendy Preskow, founder and president of the NIED, told a Toronto press conference at the time.
Lakeridge Health, in Oshawa, Ont., expanded to meet the growing demand of people seeking help.
Fifteen months later, the clinic’s Eating Disorders Program can’t keep up with referrals — about 75 people are still on a waiting list. The clinic provides nutritional counseling, therapy and group programs.
Like other eating disorder centres, Lakeridge is seeing an increase in teen patients in particular. Last year they were treating 12, this year, 35.
Lakeridge’s Dr. Skevoulia Xinaris said in some cases, treating an eating disorder is also a battle against the clock.
“The concern that we have is that we’re dealing not just with a mental health issue, but with a physical health issue as well,” Xinaris said. “People die, and that’s what’s scary.”
The following video from NEDIC, the National Eating Disorders Information Centre in Canada explains who is affected by eating disorders:
CLICK HERE for a list of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week activities being run by across the UK by Student Minds.
CLICK HERE for a list of activities being run across the US during NEDAwareness Week.
In the video below, as part of NEDAwareness week, The Child Mind Institute and NEDA team up to provide up-to-date information on eating disorders, anxiety and mood disorders. From warning signs to finding the right treatment.
With Jill Emanuele, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Anxiety and Mood Disorders Center, Child Mind Institute (childmind.org) and special guest Rebecca Greif, PsyD, postdoctoral fellow at the Mount Sinai Eating and Weight Disorders Program.