eatingdisorderEating disorder charity Beat is encouraging people with eating disorders to express their concerns to others close to them and seek help before they reach the hospitalisation stage.

Beat made this call as part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2013 (11-17 February) and its aim to flag up that the illnesses – including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and compulsive overeating – are far more common than most people think. Everybody Knows Somebody is its campaign theme.

Eating disorders affect 1.6 million people in the UK. They also have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and up to 20% of those affected may die prematurely. Yet misunderstanding and stigma still remains – eating disorders are often considered to be a ‘young girl’s disease’ when they can affect anyone at any stage in life and up to 20% are male.

Beat is encouraging people to reach out to others – whether they’re a partner, work colleague, best friend, brother or sister – to express their concerns and seek help.

“Even though I was angry at the time, I can thank my best friend for having the courage to approach me and make me take that first step, she probably saved my life,” said 25-year-old Becky.

Beat’s chief executive, Susan Ringwood, said: “This serious mental illness is affecting someone you know right now – in your street, school, workplace, even in your own home. If you are the least bit worried about a friend, partner or family member take the initiative, tell them you are concerned, and encourage them to go to their doctor. The sooner someone gets the help they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.”