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Mental health and eating disorders recovery - why everyone needs to see this message

Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental illness that is often stubborn to treat and has one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric disorder.

Last year I did a review for Psychologies Magazine of a Radio 4 programme by Dr Sally Marlow called ‘Rethinking Anorexia Nervosa’.

It was fascinating as it covered so much new research from across the globe of the treatment of the illness.

It included results around a treatment called deep brain stimulation (DBS), a method currently used to treat Parkinson’s. It involves implanting very fine wires into the brain with electrodes and stimulating areas that control dysfunctional behaviours.

All of this is music to my heart as I suffered anorexia as a teenager so I fully understand the condition’s complexities and its potential threat to life. Any new way to help treat this awful condition is incredibly hopeful. And will fill families lives with hope too.

 As a teenager my family fell apart after a very bitter and nasty divorce.

My sisters, mum and I became homeless and at times had to raid bins for glass bottles in exchange for food.

My young brain was ill-equipped to deal with the situation and created the monster of anorexia as a way of controlling something in my life.

It became my best friend in a black hole of severe OCD, depression, high levels of anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal tendencies, intrusive thoughts, self-loathing, social isolation, insomnia, self-harming, lack of confidence, distrust as well as a huge and terrifying episode of psychosis.

Back then, there was not a moment when I expected to live to old age, let alone have a great and worthy life one day. 

However, an incredible doctor gave me a tiny glimmer of hope, which I clung onto during my recovery.

Through huge amounts of intense inpatient treatment, medication and self-discovery I turned my whole life around to become a wife, mother and friend. I love my life and I am truly grateful each day – and thankful to all the people who saved it.

I vowed if I ever made it through I would write about it to help others, and so became Seconds To Snap – my memoir, published in June 2015.

Seconds to Snap is now helping others to come out of the shadow of stigma and offers the same glimmer of hope that I had – I’m living proof that it was all true.  

Everyone needs hope, love, stability and to know that if they get sick there will be effective local help available, and provided with the same urgency as any other emergency.

There is nothing more terrifying than a severe episode of mental illness – it must be a million times worse for child who can’t understand what’s going on. They need to be close to family each day for extra emotional support. It’s also very traumatic for the family when the person they love can’t access treatment or get a bed.

I asked a Member of Parliament recently how he would feel if he had a heart attack and the day he went to the hospital he was told – sorry you need to come back in a few months as there are no beds, or doctors. How would he feel? Everyone I’ve spoken to who’s in the despair of mental illness agrees with me that you can’t afford to wait.

You can die - Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illness due to the medical fragility of the body or suicide.

The brain is an organ, a particularly special one. Scientists are working hard to bring us more knowledge and insight into this incredible part of our body which contains so many complexities.

It should be understood the same way as every other part of our body that requires help and attention.

Let’s get talks about mental health into schools, workplaces, hospitals, universities across the globe. Early intervention is key to recovery for most illnesses – so all awareness is great awareness.

If there is early intervention and insight into mental health – we can help stop the problems appearing in the first place, lessening the strain on doctors, nurses, the NHS – and crucially, the people affected by these debilitating conditions.

Thankfully, charities like MQ are making the right steps to positively impact people facing mental illness who are desperate for hope and guidance. 

You can read more of Tina's writing on her website

Last updated: 26 July 2017

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