Stephen Metcalfe, local MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, rose to the floor in Westminster Hall last week to lend his support to Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2013.
Eating Disorders Awareness Week is a week long campaign run by the charity Beat which encourages people to spread the message that ‘Everybody knows somebody’. Over 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders of some kind, including people from all ages and backgrounds.
In a personal and emotive speech, Mr Metcalfe reflected on the danger posed by all eating disorders but was particularly shocked by the statistic which shows that of all the mental illnesses, Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate.
Mr Metcalfe said: “At 20%, Anorexia not only exceeds the death rate of other eating disorders, but of all other mental illnesses. The number of people suffering with some form of eating disorder in my constituency could be as high as 7,000 – that’s almost 1 in 10, yet I have never been contacted on the issue. I can only assume that either the service provision is excellent, or more worryingly, that people are suffering in silence.”
When made aware of the potential numbers of hidden sufferers, Stephen raised the issue with his own children who admitted they had personal experience of the pressure which leads to disordered eating.
He added: "It was a truly sobering thought that an issue which has a mortality rate of 20% was potentially impacting my own family. I suddenly realised the issue wasn't just one about teenage girls feeling self-conscious. Eating disorders are seriously debilitating diseases affecting all ages and both sexes - including young men like my son. I knew then I wanted to show some support for the campaign to raise awareness of eating disorders, and tell my constituents 'please don't suffer alone’”.
Hospital admissions for eating disorders amongst males has risen by 67% in the past ten years and men are less likely to seek help than women. Gay and bisexual men are twice as likely to suffer from an eating disorder than heterosexual men demonstrating that these diseases are indiscriminate.
Mr Metcalfe has called for greater awareness of the issues which underpin eating disorders, and for the NHS to provide better services when they are needed, particularly for sufferers of Anorexia.
He added: “Anorexia kills 1 in 5 of those who suffer from it, and nearly half never fully recover. Given these shocking statistics, and the growing incidences of eating disorders such as Anorexia, we need to urgently tackle the underlying causes and enable people to quickly access the help they need.”
“The sooner someone is diagnosed, the more likely they are to fully recover so this is an issue that we all need to have greater awareness of. I would encourage anyone who is struggling to access the services they need to get in touch. No one should be suffering alone or in silence.”