Change Cannot Come Soon Enough
It’s been just shy of 12 months since I launched Wednesday’s Child, and there’s one question which, time and again, I find myself being asked.
“Just exactly what is it you hope to achieve?”.
I find this query being thrown my way at least once a week, be it from the media, or from those who to their credit, are trying hard to understand this illness way better than they previously have.
The truth is, that aspiration and intention is not isolated to one sole goal.
What I can say, as an overview, is that we exist to change the way eating disorders are understood, supported, treated and evidenced.
We’re here, reaching out to the individuals battling their disorder, to the parents struggling to empathise and aid recovery, to the healthcare professionals who ‘get’ that their knowledge is lacking, and to the schools who say ‘help us – we want to know what more we can do’.
Sadly, the picture around eating disorders here in the UK today, isn’t one with just a single challenge.
There’s a number of urgently required changes and enhancements, which, those in far greater posts of power than mine, are already doing their best to influence.
So what are those?
Well, first up, we have the seismic gulf between treatment services for those falling in the ‘adult’ age group, and those coming under children and young people’s services.
A recent report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists discovered that on average, someone with an eating disorder can wait up to 41 months (yes, you did read that right!) for treatment.
Then, in addition to this factor, an adult will wait some 30% longer than a young person.
We’re of the view that there must be more parity of care across the age range.
Eating disorders don’t discriminate on age, as we all know. We have to see changes which prevent sufferers ‘falling off the cliff edge’ of support once they turn 18.
And if we want to change the way care is granted and received, it stands to reason that we have to deliver far greater education to the very people who’ll potentially be on the frontline, spotting the opportunity to grant ‘early intervention’ in the case of an eating disorder.
I’m told by several sources that a GP in training, will receive just two weeks’ worth of education around the topic of eating disorders. How can that be right? How can such a miniscule amount of learning be carried out, on a subject matter which relates to the mental health illness with the highest mortality rate?
It’s not like it won’t be a relatively common scenario to see a family or individual in a GP surgery, referring to an eating disorder struggle.
So yes, something has to be done about education of healthcare professionals.
Fortunately, this is on the government agenda and it’s said that we’ll see movement in that direction in the coming years.
In the meantime, we’re proud that one of our services is education for the ‘frontliners’, be they GPs, physio’s, teachers, A&E staff, or even dentists.
Something else which simply must change around the ‘bigger picture’ of eating disorders, is the way in which data is captured.
As it stands, we have bandied around figures for what we ‘think’ to be the typical number of people with eating disorders in the UK.
These are sketchy to say the least.
Why so? Because prevalence data related to eating disorders is very poor, both in terms of those being confirmed to have the illness at a GP surgery, and in terms of those who sadly lose their life to the disease.
Indeed, in England, there’s no legal requirement to state that an eating disorder has even featured in someone’s death. Surely this only contributes to an unbalanced set of statistical findings which then prevents the government knowing just how great the level of treatment and support services is throughout the UK.
As you can see, there are many huge changes yet to happen, but the risk is that we become fixated on the bigger goals, without at the same time seeing what ‘on the ground’ work can be achieved by an organisation like us at the heart of the community.
And so, every day, our commitment is that we continue to be providing the support to families and individuals; that we share in recovery coaching calls; that we educate students in schools; that we help teachers and their fellow staff spot the signs; and that we remind every man, woman and child that a life with an eating disorder is a devastating one.
In the year ahead, I hope for much of the ‘big change’, while also being determined to contribute in our close-to-home hands-on capacity too.
From my perspective, every parent whose mind we ease, and every sufferer we empathise with, we’re creating a small and meaningful victory at a very dark and scary time.
Want to help us in the year ahead? Want to contribute to our work and our longer term vision? By all means drop me an email.
You can get me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mar 2020