Manchester youngsters warned of dangers of finding ‘thinspiration’ online as eating disorder cases soar

A senior health official has urged Manchester’s young people not to go it alone in a growing battle with mental health, dietary habits and social media control.

The health watchdog, Health and Social Information Centre (HSIC), revealed this week alarming statistics that highlight British hospital admissions are up 25% – all because of eating disorders.

On top of growing admissions to emergency rooms, social media has become the go-to place for ‘thinspirational’ imagery and influential experiences.

Thinspiration is the online phenomenon of searching for and posting images of emaciated bodies to inspire weight loss.

Although the statistics detail that female hospital admissions have never been higher, with girls as young as 15 falling victim to disorders, they do not uncover is the depth of the health concerns and a possible domino effect of mental illness as a result of admission.

The number of admissions soared between October 2012 and 2013, with 2,560 cases which saw 8% more people hospitalised with eating disorders than the year before.

Of this, 300 females were admitted because of anorexia symptoms whereas for males, boys of just 13 were the highest-ranked age group, with 50 from a total of 240 nationwide.

Patients admitted to hospital for an eating disorder ‘were more likely to stay in hospital for a longer period of time compared to all other admission episodes,’ according to the HCIC’s statistics.

HSCIC Chairman Kingsley Manning said: “Our report shows a national increase in the demand placed on hospitals by patients with an eating disorder.

“Hospitals not only dealt with more patients with an eating disorder than last year but compared to other admission types, patients with such illnesses tend to stay longer in hospital. This will be of significant interest to staff caring for these patients and those planning services.”

Although not ranked top for this growing endemic, eating disorders are still a prominent problem in Manchester.

Regional statistics suggest those children in large boroughs, especially in the north of England, are more susceptible to be overwhelmed by such #thinspirational crazes.

Lorner Garner, Chief Operating Officer for BEAT, the national charity for eating disorders, believes this isn’t something hospitals can just simply treat and has warned Manchester about the dangers of such judgment.

She said: “The figures released don’t tell us about readmissions, they are simply just episodes. It would be naïve to think that when someone goes to hospital they then receive treatment and the problem is therefore fixed.

“There are possible long-lasting mental effects, especially on young minds. We want people to talk openly about their experiences, to not feel alone or alienated.”

MM interviewed Frances, a 23-year-old model from Deansgate, on the problem of eating disorders in the modelling world.

She insists that the pressures from industry employers are affecting self-confidence and impacting on young girls’ self-esteem – leaving them more vulnerable to eating disorders.

Frances didn’t want her full name exposed, but her experiences further highlight the lack of clarity on health, yet the openness of social media that is available.

She said: “The directory I work under takes a number of young girls, aged between around fifteen to mid-twenties and throws them into many different and often uncomfortable situations.

“Some of these girls have never lived away from home, or put the kettle on, and they’re exposed to revealing their skin and stripping down to their underwear to a wide audience through social media, this all whilst revising for the GCSE’s.

“I think ultimately it will have a huge mental effect – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t judge people for how they looked. Being a model does this, it changes your trail of thought, sadly.”

Social media has been pinpointed as the decisive tool damaging confidence.

Ms Garner, of BEAT said: “The feedback we receive here at Beat suggests young people vacillate between social media and wanting help, wanting to talk about their concerns.

“With social media often there is no judgment passed, they’re safe and can view images without an identity card. We don’t want thinspirational sites banned because that will only intensify divisions and create an underground operation. What will that do? Probably add further damage.”

Jennifer Cole, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University backed the claim that social media has an evil side.

She said: “The problem for young people today is, what is known in psychology, as social comparisons.

“Whereas before they would compare to friends or people in school, now there is a vast range of accessible sights – a whole internet expanse.

“Facebook is also reluctant to moderate groups whereby women on a commute to work have their photo taken and become a kind of public gallery, for people to laugh and comment on. This is all intrinsic into the concerns and psyche of many people here in the UK.”

For more information and advice on where to go regarding eating disorders, wherever you are in the UK. Contact BEAT via: Adult Helpline, call 0845 634 1414 or email [email protected].

For the Youthline, call 0845 634 7650 or email at [email protected].

Image courtesy of Christy McKenna with thanks

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