Transformation Partners in Health and Care has worked closely with a group of experienced clinicians and experts by experience to develop a set of guiding principles on disordered eating, and how to best support and meet the needs of this group. This blog has been published as part of a series to explore the topic of disordered eating in more detail and will feature many of the experts by experience and clinicians who helped develop this work. Find out more about this series here.
Blog by young experts by experience group, CYP mental health programme, Transformation Partners in Health and Care
Disordered eating and eating disorders can be very serious so we have written this blog about supporting young people to seek help for their mental health. We came up with the four tips and are sharing some of our own experiences from when we were seeking help and support to improve our mental health. While working on the blog, we realised that many of us had similar experiences. Asking for support can be difficult and we hope that the tips and stories below are helpful, wherever you are in your journey.
We have also included some links at the end of this blog to help you navigate your next steps to seeking help.
Speak to someone you trust
We agreed that it is important to speak to someone that you trust. More importantly our advice would be to speak to someone who makes you feel valid, comfortable, and safe.
I knew something was wrong with my mental health and my behaviour; I knew I wasn’t happy. I had built up a relationship with the pastoral leader and school nurse and felt comfortable around them to talk about the things troubling me. I was too scared at the beginning to talk to my family, I naturally was worried about their response as nothing like this had ever been spoken about openly in my home. One lunch, I decided to speak to my pastoral leader about what I thought was wrong – I opened up about my disordered eating and unhealthy mindset around exercise and food. He told me to have hope and that I wasn’t going to feel like this forever, no matter how bleak it looked.
He helped refer me and until he left my school, remained one of my most dependable supporters. It was scary talking to someone new about what I was feeling and being truly honest, but it was worth it. I had been building up how horrible it was going to be to ever open up about what was really going on but in reality, it was very freeing. I then told my parents about it with the help of the school nurse (as it was necessary for them to have been informed before the referral could be completed) and that was the final stepping-stone for me to reach out and get help. Asking for help will forever be one of the scariest things I have faced but one of my bravest moments too.
Millie, age 17
Everyone deserves help
Many of us had experiences where we felt that our issues were not as urgent as compared to what other people might be going through. We often thought that our experiences weren’t as bad as what other people were dealing with. This meant that we were not sure if we should even ask for support. As a group one thing that we have all learnt is that we all deserve help. No matter what you are going through, you deserve and are entitled to help. Asking for help is the first step – it can feel daunting, especially if you’re not sure what you need but there are so many resources including the Disordered Eating Guidance and the Beat website which can help.
There is no better day than today
We know that asking for support is difficult and that it’s never easy to have the courage to reach out. Disordered eating and eating disorders can be very serious. It’s important to get help if you are not well. Remember that asking for help is the first step towards feeling better.
When it came to opening up to my parents about my mental health, I was terrified. I didn’t know what was to come once people knew I was struggling. What would trying to get better be like? Will I have a therapist? There were so many unknowns and navigating these
seemed impossible. I kept telling myself that today wasn’t a good day to tell them, I would be able to do it tomorrow or the next day. Every day I would think of a reason why another day would be better. I convinced myself it wouldn’t be so scary if I waited just a little bit longer – what’s the harm? I’d waited so long that my school intervened and called my parents to tell them for me. I cried my eyes out, I hadn’t expected it to be that day that I’d have to be open
with my family and telling them I wasn’t okay was hard. However, my mum was understanding, she’d experienced something similar when she was my age and was prepared to help me get the help I deserved. The perfect moment or day to ask for help will probably never come, there is no perfect way or words to do so, but once you take that first step, the rest of the process can finally begin.
Be honest, don’t try to catch out those who are helping you
Once you have asked for support make sure to be honest with yourself and with those helping you. Many of us ended up in situations where we were going from one negative behaviour and then replacing it for another one. Some of us did this intentionally and others didn’t realise we were doing this.
Your personal support system (and if you have been referred, your therapist or medical team) need to know where you are mentally and physically. The process is made so much faster and less painful for you if you can find a way to open up to the people around you. Mental health problems are already so isolating so fighting that loneliness and isolation is a really important step in your journey. For me, I found it easiest to find one person who didn’t push me to follow a certain meal plan or who didn’t judge me if I was really struggling that day. I found I could be myself around this person and really – and I mean truly – tell them everything that was going on for me.
Not holding the weight of your mental health on your own makes the journey to feeling better so much easier to push through. Constantly hiding and masking your emotions and negative behaviours will not help you to feel better it will only trap you in those emotions. Finally being honest with yourself and your emotions or behaviours, and then being able to honestly communicate with those around you will help. You are already dealing with so much mentally; further isolation and loneliness will only exacerbate your struggles.
Emily, age 15
We hope that the tips in this blog will help if you are struggling with your mental health. Admitting that you need support takes courage. We have all been where you are and can honestly say that reaching out is the first step towards feeling better.
- More information on Disordered Eating can be found here here
- If you need urgent support you can talk to NHS trained advisors in London, find more information here
- More information and support for eating disorders can be found on the Beat website
- Find apps and digital support for your mental health and wellbeing on Good Thinking
- Other resources include the Shout text line and Kooth.