Talking Helps to support marginalised people with eating disorders and body image issues

Only 25% of Australians living with an eating disorder currently access treatment

Butterfly Foundation is urging all Australians with an eating disorder to reach out for support, regardless of their life circumstances. Butterfly today launched its ‘Talking Helps’ campaign to encourage the one million Australians living with an eating disorder to seek support, especially those who are further discriminated against due to their gender, sexual orientation or cultural background

CEO of Butterfly Foundation, Kevin Barrow said that thousands of Australians are not getting the help they need. In fact, only 25 per cent of people currently living with an eating disorder are getting treatment. Many more are struggling alone with body image issues and are at risk of developing an eating disorder. Internal and social stigma are immense factors to seeking help, especially for those who don’t fit the eating disorder stereotype. 

Butterfly’s National Helpline for eating disorders reports just 6 per cent of contacts coming from males, even though 37 per cent of people experiencing eating disorders are men. Men also represent half of those experiencing binge eating disorder – the most common type of eating disorder experienced.  

Additionally, only 10 per cent of contacts to the Helpline identify as LGBTIQA+, although people in this community are significantly more likely to experience an eating disorder than the general population. Homosexual men are seven times more likely to report bingeing and nearly 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males; and two-thirds of people who identify as trans or gender diverse report limiting their eating because of their gender identity. 

 “Our latest campaign ‘Talking Helps’, aims to eliminate this common stereotype and encourage help-seeking by focusing on the stories of five unique Australians,” said Butterfly CEO, Kevin Barrow. “When you can relate to a person’s life experience and story of their eating disorder it is often a strong step to dismantling the barrier that is stopping you from seeking help. Seeing yourself in another person’s story can help to break down the feeling of isolation and help you to connect with the support you need.”

Katie, one of Butterfly’s Talking Helps Champions who has lived experience of anorexia and bulimia, found her sexuality and being in a same-sex relationship presented a different set of challenges when it came to her eating disorder experiences. 

“I didn’t want my partner at the time to think that I was comparing our body types. I didn’t want her to be overly focused on her own eating, or her own body image.”

However, reaching out, getting help and subsequently learning to be kinder to herself have been paramount to the quality of life that she now experiences.

Juliette Thomson, Psychologist and Manager of Butterfly’s National Helpline commented, “Anyone can experience an eating disorder, but people who do not fit the image of what an eating disorder looks like can have a harder time accessing treatment and care. In fact, less than one in four people with eating disorders access professional help.” 

“The Helpline is a free, safe and confidential service providing counselling, support groups, information and referrals to health professionals around Australia screened for an understanding of eating disorders. All our counsellors are qualified mental health professionals with specialist training in eating disorders and body image.”

“Talking to our Helpline can be the first step in getting support, even if you’re not ready to change. It offers support along the journey, with a relapse, or acts as an important source of information if you’re worried about someone you know.” 

Butterfly Helpline counsellors have competence training from LGBTI Health Alliance, Aboriginal Cultural Competence Training and an understanding of the challenges people from different cultural backgrounds face.  

There is also a Translation and Interpreting Service that is free and available to access via the Helpline. It is available to anyone from a non-English speaking background, via 131 500. More information about eating disorders can be found via Butterfly’s website in 23 different languages. 

For more information on Butterfly’s ‘Talking Helps’ campaign visit to: www.butterfly.org.au/talkinghelps 

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