Saturday 2nd June – Today is World Eating Disorders Action Day. This is a day we collectively shine a spotlight on the needs of those around the world living with an eating disorder. This year we continue to be focused on breaking down the stigma associated with eating disorders and the barriers to help-seeking associated with these complex, potentially fatal mental illnesses.
In conversations about eating disorders, it is the female stories or experiences that we commonly hear. What is missing, but which is vital to these conversations, is the male voice.
Butterfly Foundation’s Paying the Price report by Deloitte Access Economics projected an increase in Australian men of all ages living with an eating disorder to 350,000 this year. This figure increases year on year with the projected number of males in 2021 reaching over 367,000. In addition, studies indicate as few as 23 per cent of people with eating disorders will ever seek treatment. We believe this percentage would be even lower for males. This silence can cost lives. It is urgent for things to change.
Men’s voices are crucial in any effort to break down the stigma and barriers to help-seeking for men and eating disorders. They must feel safe and supported in speaking about their reality – the dark thoughts, the fears, the perceived shame and, most importantly, what works for them in moving into recovery.
They are the ones who can tell us about the particular forms of stigma they face and the barriers they had to overcome. We know their fears of being misunderstood can be paralyzing. But having them speaking out is the only way we can effectively encourage other boys and men to seek help.
During our 2018 national ‘MAYDAYS for Eating Disorders’ campaign Butterfly saw first-hand the change agent impact and power of the male voice. Kelly and Braiden shared their experiences of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. They spoke of their struggles, the impact on their lives and how they have emerged victorious. Their courage in speaking out had real results and we saw the beginning of a ‘male community’ emerging. This was the first time that such a connection has been made at a national level in Australia.
During the campaign, as a result of Braiden and Kelly speaking out, more men have sought information and help. Butterfly had a 45 per cent increase in men visiting our website. There were over 7,500 views of Braiden and Kelly telling their stories across social media. Most importantly there was an increase in the number of men contacting our national helpline, 1800 ED HOPE, to speak with a trained counsellor.
These statistics highlight the influence and real impact of the male voice. There is a clear immediate ripple effect - men telling their stories empowers other men to seek help. We must not lose this impetus but rather harness it for further change.
There is a long road ahead to remove the crippling stigma associated with eating disorders. In traversing this road there is no substitute for the power of the voice of lived experience. These voices explain the reality of these illnesses – the warning signs, the complex thoughts and behaviours, and the hope for recovery.
Underpinning the success of this new approach to addressing stigma for men, is the ongoing need to address reform in the health system to ensure that those who do seek help have the ability to afford treatment for as long as they need. The more people who speak out about the reality of the real costs of eating disorders, the more compelling the case for change will be.
Together we can act to break the stigma. I urge you, on such a crucial day and then every day, to have a conversation with your friends, colleagues and family members. The more we talk about eating disorders the more we will reduce the barriers to help-seeking for anyone who is struggling. The more we will equip each of us to be aware of the warning signs in a loved one and to encourage them to take action.
As former body-builder Kelly says, “Eating disorders know no age or gender.” Let’s highlight this reality by encouraging all who battle these illnesses to have the courage to speak out, seek help and be agents of change for these crippling illnesses.
SHARE YOUR STORY WITH US: www.thebutterlfyfoundation.org.au/share-your-story
Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 or email@example.com
For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14
Butterfly encourages the media to adhere to the Mindframe Guidelines for reporting of suicide and eating disorders.
Media Contact: Danielle Cuthbert 0421 978 940 firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook – thebutterflyfoundation
Twitter – @BFoundation