Hope Virgo, Author and Mental Health Campaigner
You can find Hope @hopevirgo, @hopevirgo1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mental Health services across the country are stretched, I know that as much as the next person, but the problem is there is not enough action being taken to tackle this. We are spending far too long talking about the issue and seeing no real immediate movement. We see five and ten year plans which don’t take in to account the fact there are people no struggling with their mental health.
In 2016 I relapsed after being out of hospital and living healthily for eight years. I had convinced myself I wouldn’t get unwell again. That I was just like the next person, not calorie counting, not over exercising… but when my Grandma passed away that anorexic voice slowly but surely began to suck me back in. She was there at the dead of night when I just wanted to give up. There when I felt so empty and alone about my Grandma. The more she seduced me, the more I wanted her, the more I longed for her.
It was a dangerous game what I was getting involved in but I just wanted to begin to feel okay again. I knew I should have been talking to those around me but for some reason I just couldn’t. I didn’t feel able to. I wanted to be strong and I just hated feeling sad.
The frustrating thing for me was that I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew that at any point I could go overboard and not be able to find the strength to turn this around. I knew I needed to get help and get my support network around me.
After a discussion with my Mum I knew I had to reach out for support. I referred myself to the local Eating Disorder Outpatient Unit for an assessment, only to be told that I wasn’t thin enough for support. I didn’t know what to do… I wasn’t thin enough even though I had been here before, I nearly died from anorexia when I was 17 but yet they wouldn’t see me now. That anorexic voice was loud and clear, beating me up day after day. Pushing me further down.
Fast forward a year and a half later and I am back on track. I didn’t get admitting to hospital I went on medication and went right to the basics. I talked, had my support network but what happened to me was wrong on so many levels. If I hadn’t had this network around me who knows where I would be now?
After writing my book, Stand Tall Little Girl, I began to share my story across the country and I realised that this was not an issue that just affected me but effects thousands of people across the country. I launched #DumpTheScales to tackle this injustice.
The guidelines are right but these are not being uniformly implemented across the nation to the detriment of thousands of people daily.
#DumpTheScales aims to raise awareness more widely of eating disorders and tackle the image that you have to be stick thin to have an eating disorder. It also aims to raise awareness and calls for the government to put pressure on the NHS to change this. It calls for a complete implementation of the guidelines, a standard to be introduced so the guidelines have to be measured and to introduce communications and GP training.
It’s a lack of funding combined with a lack of education that is responsible for people reaching out feeling abandoned.
The main stigma is around being a particular weight – this means that people with eating disorders are not able to reach out for support because they don’t feel “good enough” or feel like they “look unwell”. The stigma means it’s problematic for so many who want support and help but don’t feel able to access it.
Where are we at?
#DumpTheScales has now got over 72,000 signatures. And the campaign continues to make huge progress I have sat opposite the Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention on a number of occasions but still not enough is being done. We need to keep talking about this, sharing the petition, and sharing stories.
What can you do?