It is shocking that over 1 million Australians in 2017 suffered from an eating disorder with approximately 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 32 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.

Summer can be a very challenging time for Butterfly as we receive an increase in calls through the National Helpline 1800 ED HOPE, and requests for our Support Services over the Christmas period. Messages to people around being slim, skinny and “bikini ready” are very strong which in turn make vulnerable people feel worthless and anxious.

For eating disorders, the need is great and the demand for our services is growing daily!
BUT Butterfly is working passionately to turn this situation around and change the conversation!

We know that Butterfly’s community based Support Programs are key to providing help and saving lives!

Butterfly has reached 1,000’s of people through our community based Support Services including recovery workshops, online and face to face counselling, the National Helpline 1800 ED HOPE, carers workshops. But we don’t dare stop here. There are so many more people within our communities that need access to the services that we offer.  

The reality is that many families find it very difficult to know who to turn to, or how to seek treatment when their loved one develops an eating disorder. Every day they fight the illness but often have to fight ignorance, stigma and insensitivity as well.   

Michael’s daughter was just twelve years old when she became ill with an eating disorder. “We needed the health system to be simple. All our energy was focussed on our child getting better. We didn’t have the resources to go out and find services or jump through hoops to fit in with the health service provider.”    

“Having earlier access to medical practitioners who know something about eating disorders and are prepared to act early rather than waiting for physical and mental health to deteriorate, could make the difference between successful treatment and tragedy. Our daughter’s health went downhill so fast, there was no time to ‘wait and see’. Her illness needed to be taken seriously from the very beginning.”

The journey to recovery is often long, complex, intense and ongoing.

Unfortunately treatment options are limited, the number of clinicians working in the field is insufficient and community support services are either sporadic or nonexistent. The situation for parents, carers and families is dire and Butterfly is working to enable families to have access to community support and options for treatment.

Josie, a 17 year old high school student suffered from an eating disorder for three and a half years. Her youth was not been filled with her parents asking her to do homework, having arguments about going to the mall on the weekend or spending time with her school friends. Instead, she was overwhelmed with negative thoughts around food, extreme exercise and the notion that she was never good enough.

“With the vicious cycle of restriction and over exercise consuming me, my heart was under too much pressure to function. Relying on nasogastric feeding as a source of nutrition and 24-hour supervision to ensure I cooperated, I was confronted with the harsh reality by my team of doctors that I would not make it through the year if my life didn’t turn around.”

Whilst Josie tried several forms of treatment for her eating disorder, it was the Butterfly’s Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that started her on the road to recovery.

“With this type of treatment being the final option for me, Butterfly welcomed with me with open arms and I was able to regain my life again. Prior to beginning my journey with Butterfly, I was spending more of my time as an inpatient in hospital than I was in my own home.”

Butterfly wants to be there for so many other people just like Josie. Butterfly is committed to helping all people affected by eating disorders; the individual, their families, friends and loved ones.

Females in Food would love to have your thoughts, tell us what you think by commenting below.