Today is World Mental Health Day and I would just like to say that you are not your mental illness because I can admit that at times, the voice becomes too strong that I seem to think that all that I am is a list full of disorders and I know many people do too.
When you introduce yourself to someone, you would not say “Hello, I am depression/anorexic/anxiety/self harm/BPD” would you? I would not like to think so.
When you are so consumed by your illness, you do tend to define yourself by it because the voice of your illness is all that you hear – that you are fat, worthless, a failure. That is not you at all. There is so much more to you than your disorder. You could be a writer, a teacher, a musician etc… and that is what you should define yourself as. Yes, you have an illness but there is so much more to you than that. It does not define you.
Dissociating yourself from the voice of your disorder and your real voice can be very hard but you just need to notice what the voice of the disorder is saying and what YOU are really thinking and talk back to the voice.
Kati Morton has very helpful videos on this. Below is a video by her which I absolutely love and will help you talk back to your illness but this video in particular focuses on eating disorders but can apply to other disorders too.
I wrote a post about this a few months ago but as a media volunteer for Beat, I took part in their waiting times survey about my experiences and today it has been revealed that a large amount of people have waited for treatment for more than six months. The charity are now calling on the government to do more to help people with eating disorders.
Susan Ringwood, the chief executive of Beat says “Eating disorders are fatal in up to 20% of cases. That’s the highest death rate of any mental illness. We know that when people have to wait a long time for treatment, their illness can get worse. In the most serious cases, people’s lives can be lost. We were shocked to find that 26% of the people we spoke to had waited more than six months. We want clear waiting times to be set, so people can know when their treatment is going to start.”
Waiting lists for any treatment does really get to me because it is as if they want the sufferer to get more ill. I understand why there are waiting lists but for eating disorder treatment, it can be even more difficult for the sufferer and their family and for some, the waiting list is around 8 months to a year and by then, the sufferer may get severely ill.
After being discharged from one unit, I had to wait a year to get assessed for another one and I was not getting any better whilst waiting. In fact, I got severely worse to the point where I just wanted to die and could not even function anymore. Even drinking water seemed like a scary concept. When you do eventually get help after waiting for a long time, you just feel like you are past help, which explains why it is so hard to get better. The longer you leave a patient waiting, the harder it is to get better. All the sufferer wants is help whether they admit it or not.
Care minister Norman Lamb says this has to be a “very urgent priority”. He says “In mental health, we don’t even know how long people are waiting, That’s why this survey is of great value, because it demonstrates the seriousness of the problem. I want to get to a point where, by 2015, we introduce access standards, so that people know how long they should be expected to wait as a maximum” but he admits that he does not know whether he will achieve that yet but will try.
Another thing I would like to point out is that eating disorders are mental illnesses but some specialist units focus merely on monitoring the weight, behaviours and the intake and of course that is the main issue that does need to be dealt with first but some units, not all, do not provide proper psychological help straight away. They just give you a few antidepressants and that is it. I feel like if I get my head sorted out first, then perhaps I would do better in terms of recovery. But, of course they put you on a waiting list and more waiting lists and more waiting lists. I do not understand how I can get better if proper therapy is not put in place. Eating means nothing if you are not mentally better.
I think treatment should be offered at the first sign of an eating disorder. As soon as a patient shows signs of an eating disorder, they should put in place a therapist, a dietitian, a psychiatrist, a nurse – everything they will need in order for the patient to get better. When you have eating disorder, all you need is the right support and sometimes I feel like I am not getting that which does hinder my chances of recovery.
There are calls for young people to be taught about mental health in schools as part of the national curriculum after a study revealed today that one in three children in Britain have contemplated suicide by the age of 16.
The reason for this is a lack of education surrounding mental health as many young people go without help and therefore struggle to cope. There are issues in schools that young people face everyday such as bullying and schools often do not take into consideration the result of bullying and how severely it can effect a person, espcially when they at an age where they are trying to find their own identify. They could resort to self harm, eating disorders and have low self-esteem.
There could be a shy and quiet pupil in a classroom and perhaps they are naturally shy but it could be more to it than that. That person could be depressed and suicidal because he or she is being bullied and does not know where or who to turn to. If that person was taught about mental health in school, then they could at least know that they could have a problem and know where to go for help.
There is still a stigma attached to having a mental health problem and people are still quite weary of even talking about it.
Having been through my school years but not once was I ever taught about depression or anxiety disorders or even eating disorders. I do believe if I was taught about those issues, maybe I could have handled them well and perhaps know what to do and feel less alone.
Early intervention is key to any illness and a mental disorder is something like cancer. If it is not treated early, then it will grow and grow and keep on growing until it eventually gets worse.
I strongly believe lessons on mental health will benefit young people in a positive way. However, mental illness is not a choice so having lessons on mental health will not prevent them developing a problem but they will get to understand it and break the stigma attached to it. They will talk about it and know who to go to for help if they unfortunately develop one. Schools need to start preparing students for real life and real problems because frankly that is where the problem lies – there is lack of education out there.
Waiting lists for treatment, for any disorder is a frustrating thing. We are dealing with a health problem here which could kill us and they put us on a waiting list, which can last for years, but for eating disorder treatment, it is even more dangerous.
An eating disorder is a dangerous illness and by being put on a waiting list, you are asking for death because you wait and wait and wait and by the time you are offered treatment, you are severely ill.
This angers me because ALL eating disorders, whatever the stage the sufferer is at, should be treated early, before it gets worse. It seems like the specialists want people to be emaciated and severely sick to get treated. It should not be like that all.
Anorexia is a very life threatening illness and to many sufferers, being on a waiting list is a recipe for disaster because to them it means they are not “anorexic enough” to get treated and which they turn into being “fat”.
Eating disorders are completely and utterly hard to detect, which is why, any sign of abnormal behaviour, I think should be treated as soon as possible, before it gets out of hand. There should not be a criteria about how you must be a certain BMI to be anorexic. Not at all.
Eating disorders should be treated just like any other health issue. It is absolutely serious and nothing is being done about it. People are dying with the illness more frequently than ever, which proves it all.
I think it is time for specialists, especially in the NHS to start taking eating disorders more seriously and actually start to feel empathic to people with eating disorders. It is about time Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt does something about waiting lists, especially in mental health services because at the moment, it is awful.
Some eating disorder sufferers may not be dying, however it is not just about physical health. Truth be told, the emotional pain inside is what is killing us the most and whether the person does not seem to be dying outside, I can guarantee you that the person is dying inside, which is why eating disorders need to be treated as soon as possible because it is a psychological problem. The physical problem is only the symptom of the illness so therefore, if it is not treated early, it gets worse.