Trying to get funding for NHS treatment for eating disorders is a task that often seems impossible to achieve. You have to be knocking on deaths door before you are deemed ill enough, or deserving enough for hospitalisation and treatment. And by deaths door I do literally mean deaths door. On all my admissions I was right up there, on the doorstep with the door slowly opening, just minutes away from being sucked inside.
Physical illnesses are referred for treatment at the first sign of symptoms, with funding rarely an issue. Take cancer for example. Cancer is a serious and truly devastating illness, but if you go to the Doctors and they suspect cancer, you are referred immediately for treatment at the earliest stage to try and stop it before it becomes even more deadly. The Doctor doesn’t say ‘Oh you have to wait until it’s stage 3 and nearly terminal before we are going to do anything’. Anyone would be horrified by that. But that is what it is like for eating disorders. You can’t get funding to go to hospital until you get to a low enough weight. But by that time it is too late, the anorexia has well and truly taken over and people are seriously mentally and physically ill.
On my most recent admission to hospital, my BMI was just over 10, half of what is considered healthy. And yes, I may have disguised my weight by a few kilos but even BMI’s in the mid to low teens are too low to have to reach before being allowed treatment. You get told you can’t get help until you lose a bit more weight. Really?! The mental torture that goes alongside living with anorexia, let alone the physical damage being done, should warrant you access to immediate treatment, regardless of weight. Eating disorders are mental illnesses and deserve just as much investment, money and treatment as physical illnesses.
Requiring such low weights before any action is taken just encourages further weight loss. An anorexic at the moment knows they can get to dangerously low weights before any action is taken. And this low weight becomes the aim…if you can get away with being a really low weight, why would you stay higher? If all sufferers of anorexia knew they could be hospitalised at higher weights, it may stop them TRYING to lose as much weight in the first place. It is one thing being hospitalised when you are dangerously thin; in some cases, that thinness can feel worth any risk. But if you know you are going to be stopped well before you reach a very low weight and therefore not allowed to get very thin, it may encourage weight maintenance.
|Me knocking on deaths door-it shouldn’t have to get to this.|
But, as it stands, admission only occurs at extremely low weights. But the more weight you lose, the more addictive it becomes. As the cycle of losing weight continues, anorexia takes over and you become possessed. You lose all control and with the increasing weight loss comes increasingly entrenched anorexic thoughts that become harder and harder to shift the longer it goes on. Anorexia becomes your mind, your body, your life. And this is the point you have to get to before treatment is offered. If hospitalisation occurred at higher weights it would stop the weight loss cycle sooner and possibly before the anorexic thoughts become deeply engrained. And this makes recovery ever more possible.
If funding was made more accessible at higher weights, admissions would likely be a lot shorter with higher success rates. And trying to get any sort of decent treatment as an outpatient who maintains their weight but still struggles with the mental battle (a situation I can identify with) is a task in need of a miracle if it is to be achieved. The whole funding situation is a numbers game. Numbers of beds for eating disorders in hospitals are few and far between and unless your number on the scales is deadly low enough, you will not be given the money numbers to give you the treatment you so desperately need.
I think it is clear that if more money were to be put into eating disorders, to allow treatment and hospitalisation at higher weights, it would make a remarkable difference, reducing entrenched thoughts and habits, providing motivation to maintain weight and stopping loss of lives.
Norman Lamb (an MP for North Norfolk) said the Liberal Democrats secured extra money for eating disorders to introduce a right to access treatment quickly. Norman Lamb is a remarkable individual trying to do remarkable things for mental health. But he can’t do it on his own and now he is no longer in government, it is easy for the current leaders to ignore previous agreements. But this is not acceptable. We must fight for more money to be invested in eating disorders to allow sufferers earlier treatment. It is vital. People die because they are allowed to get to such dangerously low weights and if they don’t die, often their lives are lost anyway through living in the hell that is anorexia.
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