I did an interview for ITV News last week for Mental Health Awareness Week. They were particularly interested in waiting times for a hospital bed and funding issues. These are two topics I have had experience with and feel strongly about. Before my most recent admission, I had to wait over a month before I was granted funding and for a bed to become available, allowing my already dangerously low weight and poor physical health to deteriorate even further. And because of this wait, my physical state was so bad on admission that the eating disorder unit could not accept me and I had to be sent to a general hospital for three weeks. It is disgusting that you have to literally be in your last moments of life before you get admitted to hospital.
Beds for eating disorders are so scarce now, with all beds in England being occupied, that waiting times for admission can be as long as 6 months or more. And this is utterly ridiculous. Someone with a serious, life threatening illness should not have to wait over six months to receive the treatment they need. And in this waiting period, health deteriorates even further and makes any chance of recovery much more difficult. The lower your weight becomes and the longer anorexia is controlling your life, the more entrenched and engrained it becomes, allowing it to poison your body and mind, making even the smallest part of recovery a seemingly impossible task. Get admitted to hospital sooner, before you reach such low weights, the easier the weight restoration process is and the better chance of recovery you have as anorexia has not become so strong. Immediate treatment is the best chance of recovery from an eating disorder. It is well documented that the longer someone has suffered from an eating disorder, the less chance they have of recovery. But if everyone is having to wait such long times for admission to hospital, it is going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy that many will not recover, simply because they are not given the treatment they need, when they need it.
Allied to the lack of beds is a lack of funding. Funding for eating disorders is virtually non-existent. Not only do you have to wait months to get a bed, you have to wait until you have lost a dangerous amount of weight until you are granted funding to be allowed one of those very few beds. It is common place now for eating disorder sufferers to be told that their BMI is not low enough for them to receive treatment. And this is just not acceptable. You should not have to lose weight until you are barely several stone to receive the help that you desperately need, the help that is needed to save your life. Again, this process of allowing weight to fall so low just makes anorexia stronger and recovery harder. Physical illnesses are treated at the first sign of symptoms, not left until they are life threatening and virtually incurable. If it is not acceptable to do this for physical illness then why is it acceptable to do so for mental illness?
In the news recently they have documented a young sufferer of anorexia who committed suicide. In her suicide note she wrote
“I cannot fight anorexia anymore. I have tried very hard but it has got me.”
These words struck me. These words show the true extent of how serious and how over powering anorexia is. Unless you have experienced anorexia, it is very hard to describe just how torturous, exhausting and life shattering living with this constant, poisonous voice in your mind is. I have felt like this girl, I reached the point where I was ready to take my life as I couldn’t bare living with it anymore. Thankfully, I received the support I needed just at the right time. I was lucky. I was lucky that I was transferred to a hospital in which the staff could immediately spot my suicidal state and could offer me the help and care I needed at the time. But having a life should not come down to luck. Thankfully now I am not in that same state, both physically and mentally. But people should not be allowed to reach such low depths. Anorexia is the mental illness with the highest mortality rate. Lives could be saved with greater bed availability, greater funding and less waiting time. Even now, as a functioning anorexic, because I maintain my body weight at a non-life threatening level, I am not allowed any funding to see a specialist to help me. My life is not at risk so I am not allowed treatment, even though I still suffer greatly with anorexia. This isn’t fair. We need help to fight anorexia. Immediate help. Not help six months down the line when a bed becomes free or when we have lost so much weight our organs have failed. More beds and more funding saves lives. It’s that simple.