This week is 2017’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week, an international event which will raise awareness of and address the misconceptions that often surround eating disorders.

From 27th February to 5th March eating disorders charity Beat and members of the public will be working to raise awareness of these illnesses, with particular focus on why getting treatment as quickly as possible is crucial, the vital role of GPs , and how the people in a sufferer’s life including friends and family can support them.

Raising awareness of eating disorders is something that I have been passionate about for many years, and I am Chair of the Assembly’s Cross Party Group for Eating Disorders. As a group, we identified some key issues and priorities in the treatment of people with eating disorders, and one of these was to improve attitudes and reduce stigma.

Bethan recently spoke about stigma and her experiences at Time to Change Wales' State of Stigma event.

I have been delighted to act as an ambassador for Time to Change Wales. This included talking about my experiences of mental health problems earlier this month at the campaign’s State of Stigma event, where a 4.7% increase in positive public attitudes towards mental health since the campaign launched in 2012 was announced.

Time to Change Wales works to raise awareness and tackle the stigma that surrounds all mental health problems, and we know that eating disorders are no exception. Ideas that disorders are a choice rather than an illness, and stereotypes of young, impressionable women trying to emulate celebrities are common misconceptions that fail to realise the serious and damaging impact that an eating disorder can have on an individual’s life.

In order to improve attitudes there needs to be more of a focus on eating disorders in schools, colleges and further education establishments. This would mean that our young people have a greater understanding of the signs and symptoms and know about the help that is available to themselves and their peers. This would also help address stigma and discrimination by providing our young people with the facts about eating disorders.

We have some superb GPs and primary health care professionals here in Wales, and providing them with more education and information about eating disorders and the various treatment options available would ensure they can tailor treatment to the individual and provide them with choice.

Plaid Cymru were delighted to secure an additional £500,000 for eating disorder services in an amendment to the Government’s budget. As a Cross Party Group we have called for this to be spent on the transition between children and adult eating disorders services, which we hope will make information and knowledge sharing easier and ensure that patients get the most suitable treatment for their situation.

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