Tonight’s Evening Standard flags the risk, apparently, of people returning from jihad in Syria to follow through in the UK. It’s the biggest ever risk, an expert says. I’m not belittling the risk of terrorism – its effects go wider than death and injury, of course. I guess that’s why it’s called ‘terrorism’. And yet, the annualised figure for deaths through terrorism in the UK is 5. That’s fewer than the number of people who die from bee stings. The risk that you might be killed by terrorism is, in fact, lower than pretty much anything else at all. We spend a lot of time worrying about it, though.
The true big risks are health risks, of course. Cancer and heart disease, especially. On the whole, we sort of have those covered. But how about the risk of an eating disorder killing you or your child, or wrecking lives? Much higher than we think – with 20% of those suffering from anorexia actually dying from it (the highest mortality rate, by far, for any mental illness). And do we have that covered, like we do terrorism and cancer? No, we do not.
Cosmopolitan Magazine, in conjunction with the charity BEAT is running an important campaign on the subject of eating disorders. The simple fact is that there is so much demand for eating disorder treatment, and so little capacity to deal with it, that very unwell people are being routinely turned away by NHS doctors and told to come back when they’re even more unwell. Anorexia has the highest fatality level of any mental illness; bulimia ruins lives, too; other undiagnosed disorders can have terrible effects and sufferers are often not even recognised as such. The situation is truly shocking; many sufferers are children, yet with proper treatment recovery over time is very likely. Many, many children simply aren’t getting that proper treatment.
Please read about the Cosmo’s campaign, write to your GP as they ask and, if you have a moment, write to your Member of Parliament and ask him or her to sign Early Day Motion 1097. You’ll find MP’s email addresses easily if you Google them; alternatively simply tweet them, or write a note with the MP’s name on it to: House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA. If you’re in Scotland, do write to one of your MSPs, too.