Collaborative education: The key to dispelling myths, shame and stigma

Collaborative education: The key to dispelling myths, shame and stigma

ButtLogo_AugfinBy The Butterfly Foundation, Australia

WE DO ACT. These three words conjure up a sense of community, collaboration, cooperation and collective comradery around an issue of great importance; a clear move forward with purpose and strong intent. However what is the perception when the words “eating disorders” are mentioned? What comes to mind when the community thinks about a person with an eating disorder?

Typically, comments that come forth could be “it’s their lifestyle choice”, “it’s made worse by popular media” and even “they just need to eat something”. These have often been used to describe eating disorders and associated extreme dieting practices. All of these are incorrect, damaging and common misunderstandings. Hence a key reason for the establishment of the World Eating Disorders Action Day on the 2nd June 2016.

This day is not just about bringing together people and organisation of like mind to have pleasant conversations, but to actively step into the community and break down these myths on eating disorders, educate on the reality of this illness and advocate for positive change and access to vital treatment. That is why The Butterfly Foundation has chosen to not only support this day of action as an organisation, but engage in the spirit of these words; WE DO ACT, to help bring about positive and lasting change for the individual suffering from an eating disorder, and those walking the difficult journey with them.

It is shocking that over 913,000 Australians in 2012 suffered from an eating disorder with over 1,800 deaths from the illness. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of people suffering from an eating disorder are not young females. They are young males, older males, teenage girls, older females, young children. Eating disorders affect anyone and everyone!

SO the question we are left asking is WHY are there currently only approximately 30 in‐patient beds in public health services designated for adults with eating disorders in Australia? WHY are discussions around eating disorders hidden and in the dark? WHY is there still so much stigma attached for sufferers with an eating disorder? WHY is there an enormous barrier to accessing vital treatment and needed care in Australia?

Sadly there is a belief that people don’t feel they can talk about their illness due to lack of understanding, which often stops them from seeking the help that they so desperately need. Everyone in our community needs to be aware that eating disorders are a serious illness and treatment is crucial. You can only imagine the desperation that a parent may feel if they have a child with an eating disorder who is frightfully thin or obsessively thinking about food and you cannot access the vital treatment they need.

In contrast to all of this, the amazing thing is that recovery from an eating disorder IS POSSIBLE! Early detection and intervention is critical to having a successful outcome for a person suffering. Walking through to recovery is very possible! However the lack of access to appropriate treatment within Australia contributes to the severity of the illness and impact not only on the person but also to their wider community.

World Eating Disorders Action Day is a positive channel where by which we as a collective voice can bring to people’s attention the reality of what it is like to suffer from an eating disorder. Time and time again at The Butterfly Foundation, we come across those within the media, health sector, schools and a range of other areas that genuinely think eating disorders are trivial and can be easily overcome with a bit of routine and “wise” council. Once again, the thinking is completely misguided and shows a lack of true understanding.

Therefore through the World Eating Disorders Action Day, our desire would be to really address and tackle the conversation around what an eating disorder is and bring fact around the barriers that people face when endeavouring to access vital treatment. There is an enormous education process that needs to be embarked on with the community in order to begin real understanding and ultimately, positive change! Until this occurs, the community will continue to be misguided and make judgements based on a lack of knowledge and true compassion.
At Butterfly, we intend to foster this conversation across our social media channels on the 2nd June and engage our community in discussion around common myths, ways we can educate the general public on this illness and ultimately give those who are suffering or have suffered from an eating disorder a platform to share their story in a safe environment. Until these stories are shared, it is difficult for the general public to really understand what it is like for a sufferer.

About The Butterfly Foundation
The Butterfly Foundation represents all people affected by eating disorders and negative body image – a person with the illness, their family and their friends. As a leading national voice in supporting their needs, Butterfly highlights the realities of seeking treatment for recovery, and advocates for improved services from both government and independent sources. Butterfly operates a National Help Line that includes support over the phone, via email and online. The Help Line is staffed by trained counsellors experienced in assisting with eating disorders. It also provides a wide range of programs for service providers and recovery groups.

Because Butterfly recognises that eating disorders often arise from poor body image, it delivers a range of Positive Body Image workshops to schools and workplaces through its education program. It has a strong media presence to raise awareness of Butterfly’s perspective in community debates about body image and eating disorders. Butterfly is committed to collaboration across the sector, and presently co-ordinate the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC).
National Help Line – 1800 33 4673

Join The Butterfly Foundation in supporting World Eating Disorders Action Day. Be sure to follow along on Twitter @WorldEDDay and hashtag #WeDoAct, #WorldEDActionDay, @WorldEatingDisordersAction on Instagram and World Eating Disorders Action Day on Facebook.