In a 2012 survey, the Dorset Mental Health Forum found that the majority of respondents travelled up to 20 miles in order to access an eating disorder service, with some of these reportedly travelling over 60 miles.
“The government needs to increase awareness within schools and start teaching younger children about body image. They need to provide more money to allow services to be available to those struggling regardless of their geographical location or proximity to a city,” said Paul Siebenthal of the Dorset Mental Health Forum.
Beat estimates that 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders, with 1 in 5 of those seriously affected dying prematurely.
However, eating disorders are treatable and recovery is possible but early access to treatment continues to be a challenge in some areas.
“More funding is required with regards to treatment. Services are patchy across the country which often means that individuals have to travel considerable distances to access treatment centres,” said Ms Rebecca Field, Communications Officer at Beat.
Experts insist that de-bunking myths and misunderstandings are also necessary in order ensure that people are open to seeking treatment.
“We still hear claims that eating disorders are a faddy diet gone wrong, or they only affect teenage girls, or are affected by the media. We need to continue to break down the stigma and show the true nature of these serious mental illnesses,” said Ms Field.
Bournemouth University is supporting the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week by holding talks with experts in the filed, in an attempt to inform the local community about early treatment and diagnosis.
“Our events are aimed to continue the conversation about mental health, in particular eating disorders and to try and tackle myths, stereotypes and stigma as well as providing information about recognising signs of eating disorders among children and young people,” said Dr James Palfreman-Kay, Equality and Diversity Advisor at Bournemouth University.