Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Opinion: We need to talk about eating disorders, which ‘thrive on secrecy’

MSP Alexander Burnett, pictured outside Insch War Memorial Hospital, has called for frank discussions about eating disorders.

As with many mental illnesses, eating disorders are not well understood by our society. They are not fads, phases, or “diets gone wrong”.

Assumptions abound about the sort of people who are affected, and images we see online don’t help address the reality.

While estimates suggest eating disorders affect more than 1.25 million people in the UK, the true figure could be far higher.

This is because stigma and misconceptions can make it harder for people and their families to seek support in the first place – meaning the illness goes on for longer and recovery becomes a much more difficult process.

These illnesses require urgent care before they become so entrenched that hospitalisation is needed to save a life.

Eating disorders do not discriminate and we need to break down the barriers to early support, regardless of background or geography.

Representing a rural constituency and replying to correspondence from affected families, I was shocked by how little has been done in Scotland to extend services away from cities.

For example, one constituent had never received a home visit from a specialist in three years, as per clinical guidance, despite a fear of being observed on a webcam, or indeed leaving the house.

In March the Scottish Government set out a “vision” for how services could look in the next five years, and there is much to commend if investment in equal geographic distribution comes true.

However, there is still no commitment to treatment times beyond the standard 18 weeks in Scotland.

In England last year, all “routine” cases in children and young people were to be seen within four weeks and all “urgent” cases within one week.

While that was understandably a difficult target during the pandemic, progress to 80% and 90% showed that it is achievable.

And there is still more to do for those who aren’t covered by those targets.

Despite the fact one in 10 eating disorder sufferers is male, it takes men and boys almost three times as long to receive a referral to treatment following their first visit to a GP as a woman.

And hard though it may be to believe, more adults suffer from eating disorders than young people – again, our stereotypes about these illnesses mean older sufferers often go unnoticed.

While we talk frankly about physical problems, we struggle to do the same for mental ones; eating disorders in particular thrive on secrecy, and it is only by bringing them to the forefront of society’s collective consciousness that we can hope to show sufferers they are not alone.

It is OK to speak out, it is OK to ask for help.


Last week the Scottish Government announced a £5 million fund to boost eating disorder treatments across the country.

Some of the cash is being given to charity Beat, formerly the Eating Disorders Association.

Its helpline is available every day of the year, from 9am-8pm during the week and 4-8pm on weekends and bank holidays.

It can be reached at 0808 801 0677, with its student line on 0808 801 0811 and youth service on 0808 801 0711.

Information on email and web chat support is available at beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]