New research project to support young people suffering from eating disorders

Support for young people with eating disorders

By Nick Watts

Eating disorders are serious and complex conditions, affecting people of any age and gender, with the condition Anorexia Nervosa carrying the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

I recently wrote for Mental Healthy articles about the rise of eating disorders in men and the rise of young people being admitted to hospital for eating disorders and yet despite these alarming figures there is still a distinct lack of research in the area of men and the experiences of young people.

Helping to address this need is a research project being conducted by Oxford University, in association with the national health charity DiPEx. The project, run by senior researcher Ulla Raisanen and sponsored by Comic Relief is looking at the experiences of young people suffering from eating disorders and also the journey of recovery.

Once completed, the research will be used to help improve the training of health professionals, providing an experiential point of view, which is often overlooked in the treatment of many mental health problems.

The research will also be used to create a resource for young people on the award winning website about the experiences of other young people affected by eating disorders, talking about treatment, recovery and actual experiences of having one of the conditions.

Ulla, the senior researcher on this exciting project says;

“Very little is still understood about what it is like to live with and recover from an eating disorder. We want to make these real stories heard by others going through the same, and also use them to help train health professionals to improve their services.”

The team at Oxford University will also be targeting the research to look at the experiences of young men, which is a long overdue, yet welcome approach to research. With the feminine stigma attached to eating disorders men often tell us how they feel unable to seek help, or worried about the repercussions, Ulla continues;                                                                                                               

“A lot of the young men I have interviewed feel very frustrated about the lack of information and understanding even among health professionals about men and eating disorders. Many feel that the fear of being judged or belittled prevents them from seeking help”.

As a campaigner for the better treatment of men who suffer from eating disorders this is a welcome change for me to see. I am lucky enough to be on the advisory panel to this study, helping to make sure that males are well represented. This research will not only bring experience to the front of treatment programs and create a valuable resource for young people to go to, but hopefully a move forward into the variety of research conducted.

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