YASP

National UK mental health charity Mind have always been one of my favourites. That’s because I see them actively doing things to help people in this country with a variety of mental health issues – unlike other charities who have funding ploughed into them only to squander it or not to offer valuable and important help to the vulnerable people they should be supporting (I’ll name no names here!)

Recently I got involved with Manchester Mind’s YASP initiative – which specifically works to improve the network of help available for young people in the North West of England. Whilst I do go into schools, colleges and charities independently to talk about my experience and share advice on nutrition, body image and eating disorders, I am currently also go in with the YASP team to talk about mental health and wellbeing in general.

As part of what I do in schools I also speak with teachers, peer mentors and pastoral staff to help them to be aware of the issues which can contribute to somebody developing anorexia, signs to look out for and things they can do to help.

If you find yourself with nowhere to turn to, I really do recommend looking up Mind as well as other charities who specifically deal with eating disorders. If you’re based here in the North West, YASP in particular offer counselling, activities, work experience and mentoring – all of which can be really helpful if you feel as though you are helpless or struggling without anything to do or work towards. If you’re in another part of the UK or Ireland, (or overseas) you can find a list of helpful charities below.

Whatever you need support with, you can find more details about helpful charities here.

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Young minds blog

Recently I was asked to write a blog for Young Minds – a UK charity which aims to help young people with all kinds of mental illness to overcome boundaries and find support to help them live life to the full. I said yes (of course!), but then came the difficult task of choosing what to write. There is so much I could talk about when it comes to Anorexia alone, let alone mental health in general.

I decided to talk about the recent figures in the news, which revealed that cases of eating disorders in teenagers has doubled within the space of just 4 years. I was saddened by this – because I would hope that this is something we could improve, not worsen, with supposedly better awareness and increased provision on the NHS. Clearly, we’re doing something wrong.

I wanted to focus on the cause of EDs specifically in my article – you can read it here. I speak a lot about my own personal experience – but I’d love to know if you agree (or disagree) with my thoughts. As always, please get in touch as I love to hear from you.

More blogs to come for YM – so again, if you have a ‘hot topic’ you’d like me to cover, then please let me know!

 

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Struggling to access help? Turn to Mind

It’s a well-known fact that urgency (or rather lack of it) is contributing to and exacerbating mental illness in this country. GPs are often clueless as to where to refer their patients, that is if they are able to diagnose or recognise what the issue may be. Lack of understanding of many mental illnesses and stigma, especially surrounding eating disorders, unfortunately appears to still be rife in the NHS as well as in society as a whole.

Not being referred for the help you need makes you feel like you are not being taken seriously. Perhaps you are lying, perhaps you are overreacting? Maybe you aren’t worth the help? Damaging feelings for those who already have a negative mindset.

I don’t believe that bashing the NHS will bring any positive change – that’s not what this article is about. It’s about identifying and sharing other avenues which are open to those suffering who don’t feel they are being listened to or are getting help quickly enough – other avenues which do exist but aren’t always widely known about. Avenues which your GP probably also does not know about – therefore you simply don’t hear about them.

Over 11 years, I’ve tried to access help on the NHS several times. Sometimes it was voluntary and elective, at others it was something that I was compelled to participate in. Each time, I was let down. I decided each time I was poorly that if I was going to feel better I had to do it alone – as I always had done.

At the end of this year, I was under a lot of stress and pressure and my family asked me to go to the GP. I refused because I knew no good would come of that – and a few weeks later someone came back to me and said that a friend at work had been talking about the charity Mind, and how they had helped them. I was sceptical at first, but I agreed to give it a go and called my local Mind. They called me back and arranged a one-to-one with a member of staff who could direct me to the right place for support.

I was so impressed with this service. For the first time, I felt properly listened to, and the staff member I saw completely understood that I felt demoralised and had actually been made to feel worse in the past by not having been taken seriously or receiving the treatment I had urgently needed on several occasions. She was incredibly efficient and printed off a self-referral form there and then (this exists in my borough but obviously may differ depending on which region you live in). I have been recommending Mind to all my friends who have felt let down or who are disgruntled because they are consistently ignored by their GP, or those who are desperate for help and stuck on endless waiting lists for therapy.

If you are struggling to access help through your GP, then I would encourage you to speak to your local branch of Mind. They can listen to you completely impartially, and share with you the local resources which may help you. They may also be able to help you to get referred – so it’s definitely worth a trip. They also run workshops and therapies themselves, so there’s lots of ways in which they can possibly help.

Have you accessed help through Mind?

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Inspirational Women

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So today I was reading the news and once I got past the pages of superficial articles filled with plastic vacuous celebrities talking about their latest boob job, I came across this article. It really filled me with so much joy because it is just so positive and such a departure from what we’re all normally used to reading in the papers.

In India, acid attacks are sadly becoming an increasingly popular method employed by some to suppress women and serve as retribution for ‘bad behaviour’ which encompasses anything from wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes and hairstyle to the desire to be educated, or falling in love with someone ‘unsuitable’. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that nothing on earth these women could have done or said warrants this horrific penalty.

Rupa, Laximi and Rita have participated in a photoshoot by photographer Rahul Saharan, instigated by Rupa herself, who was attacked in her sleep by her stepmother. She has founded a fashion range, which she and the girls model in this very special photoshoot.

Not only are these beautiful women brave and inspirational, they have also set up a charity, Stop Acid Attacks, and Chhaon, a clean, safe centre for those who are undergoing treatment.

The women had previously been forced to hide their horrific scars with scarves to avoid probing stares and the frightened reactions of strangers, ashamed of their appearance and living with fear and little self-esteem. Yet now they ooze confidence and happiness, modelling beautiful clothing which promises a new horizon for them, doing what they love and are passionate about. I can only wish them the very best and I’m sure everybody reading this will agree!

If you’d like to support the girls and others like them, please visit www.stopacidattacks.org

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You can make a Difference – Research and Helping Others

It’s difficult to talk about an upsetting past experience which has affected you greatly. I for one appreciate and empathise with anyone who doesn’t feel able to tell others what they have been through, through fear of judgement, stigmas, negativity or alienation. With any mental illness there is always a risk that being surrounded by everything from your past is going to make you feel worse again and bring back some fairly unpleasant memories.

But you don’t have to be ‘hands on’ to help. Of course, I’m passionate about raising awareness of eating disorders and supporting anyone suffering. There are so many ways to do that though – more than just the blog and the books. I’m currently taking part in a study conducted by Manchester University on treating those with Eating Disorders in the NHS. From my own personal experience and that of others, it’s shocking and concerning just how ignorant and misunderstood some ‘professionals’ can be when it comes to EDs. With this issue being particularly close to my heart, a book on the way and on a waiting list for Ambassadorship with B-Eat, I decided to take part in research to make a contribution (however small) to the care and treatment of those going through these issues now and in the future.

Many Universities are running research programmes on this increasingly concerning issue, as more and more people are diagnosed with EDs at an increasingly young age. Participation is anonymous and you are required to fill in a survey beforehand to ensure that you are not still poorly or vulnerable in any way. To know that I may make a difference is really important to me, and it really doesn’t involve much time or effort. If you would like to help others and take part in research, go to http://www.b-eat.co.uk/support-us/get-involved/research/

Give and you shall inevitably receive. Even simply sharing your experiences is invaluable! If you’re able to, you can be part of research and helping others.

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