By Marita Cooper, Australia
Before starting out in the eating disorder world, I worked in developing anxiety prevention protocols and promoting that buzzword “resilience” in children and adolescent mental health. It was a time filled with hope that the work I was doing was developing young minds, shaping their potential and what they could become. The importance of prevention and early intervention was taken seriously; by schools, by parents, by whole governments even – who understood that this mental health concern was preventable and important enough to prioritise (well, for at least one hour a week) over reading, writing and arithmetic.
From this place of hope, optimism, and understanding, it has been challenging for me to enter the realm of eating disorders. Here, I discuss the high mortality and low recovery rates with struggling teenagers and their families; here, I work with individuals who have had multiple therapists to no success; here, I speak to schools and communities who too often see weight, body and eating concerns as attention-seeking, too hard to deal with, or “just a phase”. While this can, at times, be disheartening, I hope that one day soon the understanding around eating disorders will advance to where they are understood as preventable, treatable and a mental health issue (as opposed to a “teenage girl problem”).
Seeking help: Where to start?
Asking for help can be challenging at the best of times; however, stigma around eating disorders and a lack of community awareness only serves to intensify this challenge. Throughout my clinical practice, one of the most common stories I hear is of struggling individuals in the early stages of their disorder (or even prior to onset) attempting to seek help but being unsure whom to turn to, as well as that of individuals who have seen multiple therapists only to further deteriorate. Speaking to other eating disorder specialists, this is a familiar theme. Consumers attempting to navigate the eating disorder system are often overwhelmed, not knowing who to approach for treatment: a GP as they are concerned about their lost menses? A Psychologist as they are highly anxious? A Dietitian considering that their life revolves around food? Or a Psychiatrist because they may need support with medication?
Centre for Integrative Health is one of the few private practices in Brisbane lucky enough to have a specialist, multidisciplinary team focusing on eating disorders. This allows us the unique position of being able to easily communicate with the rest of our clients’ treatment team (as they are often in the next office). However, we understand that our position is the exception, and a lack of communication between service providers often leads to delays or setbacks in recovery. Because of these reasons (and those highlighted above), we see WEDAD as an opportunity for specialist eating disorder providers to unite and foster partnerships for the benefit of all individuals with eating, body and weight concerns.
World Eating Disorders Action Day in Brisbane
Our June 2nd event will involve service providers, consumers and carers to jointly create and disseminate a Brisbane-wide framework that is easy-to-navigate and reduces barriers to accessing specialist care.
We hope this will:
* Support individuals with seeking treatment in the early stages of their disorder with a better understanding of who will optimally be included in their treatment team
* Provide GPs, guidance officers, parents and other first points of contact with awareness of the importance of specialised eating disorder interventions and
* Raise awareness in the community of eating disorders as preventable and treatable mental health conditions.
Marita is a Registered Psychologist at Centre for Integrative Health in Brisbane, Australia. Although working with the full spectrum of eating disorders, she has a special interest in child and adolescent eating behaviours. Marita has a strong research background in mental health prevention and resilience promotion in youth populations, as well as unhealthy body change behaviours in male populations. As well as clinical consulting with individuals and groups, Marita conducts school presentations collaboratively with other CFIH team members for staff, students and parents to promote awareness of the risks of dieting, provide strategies for body acceptance and intrinsic self-worth, as well as to encourage help-seeking behaviours.
About Centre For Integrative Health (CFIH)
Centre For Integrative Health (CFIH) is a multidisciplinary clinic dedicated to helping those with eating, body and weight issues to improve their physical and emotional health. CFIH practitioners are highly skilled and experienced in the assessment and treatment of a range of physical and emotional health conditions. They recognise that no two clients are alike and work to understand the unique physiology, psychology, and lifestyle factors of each individual client.
CFIH provide updates and tips on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/centreforintegrativehealth) or see their website (http://cfih.com.au/) to find out how they can help you.
Join Marita 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.