We need to talk about eating disorders and suicide
Please understand that we know only too well that the words within this post might feel upsetting, distressing, or alarming.
And yet, it is so important that we are able to discuss the reality of suicide attempts, and suicidal thoughts, among those with eating disorders.
Studies into this area vary, but in an article published in Psycom, updated as recently as this month, it suggests one in five with anorexia nervosa will at some stage attempt suicide, and that up to 60% of those with eating disorders engage in suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
It is already widely accepted that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental health illnesses. That reality is shaped from figures related to death through organ failure, but also through suicide.
So, as uncomfortable as it is to talk about this subject, it really is imperative.
It’s crucial that society recognises how severe the impact of an eating disorder can be on someone’s wellbeing, and on their desire to maintain life.
Perhaps it is inevitable that a disease which causes such brain disturbance, hormonal imbalance, social isolation, and depression, might drive those suffering to have thoughts about a premature and voluntary death.
But goodness only knows we need to do more to help people in this devastating state of mental unrest, to feel that their life, their chance of recovery, is worth so much more.
So how can we help ourselves, or others, if this dark place is allowing us to consider thoughts of suicidal behaviours.
Here’s a few suggestions to help, but do please contact a professional or call an emergency care line if you are feeling particularly vulnerable.
IF YOU ARE FEELING LIKE LIFE IS NO LONGER WORTH IT
- Do not suffer in silence. Yes, it takes bravery of extreme proportions to speak up and ask for help, but it’s vital you do. Your family member, friend, partner, neighbour or colleague, will want to know to what extent you are suffering. If you don’t feel someone you ‘know’ is appropriate, you absolutely must contact a professional in mental health support. Staying silent will only maintain your sense of isolation and despair.
- Recognise and Reframe. You don’t need to feel you must deny your thoughts or fears. Recognise that you truly are feeling this low and burdened. Then ask yourself what it is in the moment, which might make your mood feel immediately better. Would it be a phone call to someone you love, time snuggling your beloved dog, or watching a happy movie. Try to reframe the moment you are currently in. Take it one step at a time.
- Focus forward. Often, it’s looking further forward, which can help us escape the dark and despairing moment we’re in. How? Because if we were to look forward and consider what MIGHT be possible a week from now, six months from now, a year from now, we can remind ourselves that life is for living and for loving. Write down what life could look like if you were still here and able to change your thinking and restore yourself a year from now. Would you be able to spend more time with your precious nephew, book that sunshine holiday and enjoy it in a healthy happy body, complete your university years, or get the job you’d always hoped to. Aim to look forward with your future roadmap. You are worth fighting for.
IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT SOMEONE AND WANT TO OFFER HELP
- Know that you don’t need to be an expert. Kindness is often the most important tool of all. If you’re recognising that someone is really struggling, offer your empathetic listening ear, a chance to chat on the phone, or to go for a walk. Be present with that person. Show that you value them.
- Offer to attend therapy with them. Those who are struggling might find it difficult to consider going to see someone for professional help, but just knowing you would drive them to the appointment and wait outside the door, might help enormously to start a positive pathway toward recovery.
- Plan together, for something positive in the future. Consider how you could help that person have something to look forward to. What might you encourage them to ‘get well’ and ‘stay’ for? Could it be a holiday, the chance to do a class together, or to see a show or an event they’ve always wanted to. Allow them to build an exciting dream with you as their cheerleader.
- Sep 2019