A victim of anorexia; a profile.

Image

Photo – Christy McKenna via Flickr

While interviewing Louise*, it was hard to imagine the beautiful young woman in front of me ever struggled with low body image and anorexia.

Louise was 15 years old when her thoughts moved beyond the average concerns of a teenager, to the restricting of smelling foods, drinking water or biting her nails for concerns of consuming calories. Ninety-nine percent of her thoughts had to do with weight, shape, food and the desire to fit in in society.

She can see now she had a problem, but admits to me at the time she didn’t understand why she physically wasn’t able to keep up with her friends, why they would watch her eat her half a mandarin at lunch time or why her parents were taking her to see a dietician. At 34kg with a height of 167cm, what she saw in the mirror was obviously different to what others saw.

Many of her memories from the time prove to her how selfish the disease really is. “Looking back, I can see just how much pain I caused my parents. I recall my dad (a psychologist), approached me and started to shake me, clearly distressed, asking repeatedly why I won’t eat.”

She was admitted to hospital after she struggled to walk up a flight of stairs at school, and what she thought would be a quick stop to get her heart checked turned into a period of 7 hospital admissions over 3 years, with an average 3 month stay per admission. Being force-fed through a nasal gastric tube, being bed-bound, restricted to a wheel chair and expected to use a pan instead of the toilet was no way to live. She says that “Looking around at the ten other eating disorder patients at the dining table made me feel fat and pathetic, I felt I definitely didn’t belong.”

The doctors set her target of 54kg at one kg every week, which meant 20kg to gain. She says she learnt the tricks of the trade through the other patients, and how to con the doctors into believing she was actually gaining weight.

Her thoughts became more distorted as she became severely depressed, admitting “Hospital became a refuge from the realities at home. I would refuse to eat so I could stay in the confounds of hospital and avoid the pressures and responsibilities of life.”

Today, her attitude towards body image has changed completely. She still receives treatment for depression but remains a strong advocate for positive body image.

At a healthy weight, she says “can’t guarantee that the distorted thoughts will ever fully leave, but I can guarantee I won’t let them defeat me again. I want so much from life.”

If you or any one you know is suffering with anorexia, contact the Butterfly Foundation for support.

*Name has been changed

Photo Story of Mental Illnesses

For the photo story on mental illness I have represented 4 different people, with different issues. The black and white images represent the darkness of their mental illness; the sadness. I didn’t show their faces in the pictures as mental illness comes with an anonymity surrounding it. Majority of people with a mental illness don’t like to share their troubles, and if are being published in a paper will change their names and have a photo which hides their identity.

ImageThis photo is a sufferer of chronic depression; the aged is a category that is very overlooked when it comes to mental health and depression. With age comes a loss of self as illnesses such as dementia set in. With a loss of self and memory, and the loss of friends, the aged are at a very vulnerable time for illnesses such as depression.

ImageThis man is a sufferer of bipolar; an illness that almost defines who he is and what his personality entails. This illness controls his emotions, reactions, and actions – this all causes a loss of identity.

ImageThis photo represents the darkness that people will mental illness have to face, and how their minds and judgements are clouded by these illnesses.

ImageThis photo represents how when people have mental illnesses, it may seem like they have no future, and are looking out over a life in which they don’t belong.

*These photos include models and the images and captions are to convey people who are suffering from mental illness.

Overweight teens suffer from anorexia too

Image

Photo – Benjamin Watson via Flickr

Overweight teenagers who lose weight are at significant risk of developing eating disorders, and are often overlooked. A new study may change the way anorexia is diagnosed, and help more teens with the illness. The Pediatrics paper, has broadened the disorder criteria by taking away the weight requirement. Before this paper, anorexia was seen as a weight disorder, rather than a psychological one.

It outlines how the disorder is often overlooked among overweight and obese children and teens that lose weight, but are actually at a significant risk for developing eating disorders. Overweight children often get teased and discriminated against, and therefore are vulnerable. Because of this, they may engage in unhealthy behaviour and diets.

When obese or overweight teens lose weight, they are met with positive encouragement and approval. The paper explains how it’s harder to see that they have an eating disorder because we think they should be losing weight. 35 per cent of anorexic patients have a history of obesity, and because of this, their eating disorders go unidentified for about 12 months longer than in their smaller-sized peers. This can be very dangerous for the child, as the longer an eating disorder has time to take root in a persons mind, it is a much longer, harder battle to get rid of those habits. Furthermore, the months of unnoticed malnutrition can even cause more permanent effects such as brain damage, infertility or even death in 4% of cases.

Study author Leslie Sim says parents and doctors need to be more concerned with how the child is losing the weight, and keep the child’s attitude towards weight loss healthy.

 

 

If you or anyone else are suffering with an eating disorder, contact your local doctor or get advice at the Butterfly Foundation.

996 deaths by suicide

Image

Photo – Mila via Flickr

Australia’s Aboriginal peoples have one of the most horrific numbers of suicide in the world. 1.6% of all Australians die by suicide but for Aboriginal the number is at 4.2%. This translates to 1 in 24 Aboriginal peoples dying by suicide. These horrific statistics unparalleled by the rest of Australia, are similar to their disproportionate incarceration rates, homelessness rates, suicide rates, and lower life expectancy.

These high statistics mean that most Aboriginal families are affected by suicide.

Aboriginal peoples around the world endure disproportionate high rates of suicide but Australia’s divide between its national average and its Aboriginal peoples is one of the world’s worst, with Australia’s Aboriginal youth suicide rate the world’s worst.

There were 996 suicide deaths by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people reported across Australia between 2001 to 2010. However even these horrific statistics have failed to gain attention from Australian governments, as there are no correlating funding schemes.

Furthermore, for every suicide there are hundreds of attempted suicides.

As Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian; well known researcher and Kabi Kabi eElder said;  “How many suicides, how many more deaths will it take to open our eyes, and open our ears to the silent screaming that is coming from the hearts, and souls of those who are gone, and of those who grieve and keep screaming ‘Help…’”

Employment, education, health, community and infrastructure are all key elements to reducing both imprisonment and suicide rates, however there are more underlying issues that need to be addressed. The key element being their loss of religion and their connection to the land.

Links between Racism and Depression

A new study has found a disturbing correlation between poor mental health in youth and experiences of racism. The study, undertaken by the University of Melbourne was conducted with 12-18 year olds, and showed there are “strong and consistent relationships between racial discrimination and a range of detrimental health outcomes such as low self-esteem, reduced resilience, increased behaviour problems and lower levels of well-being,” said lead researcher Naomi Priest, of the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Image

Photo – Carmen Lucas via Flickr

The three most common ethnic/racial groups represented in the studies were African American, Latino/a and Asian, including East Asian, South Asian and other Asian.

The study found that in most cases, the most common types of racism were interpersonal experiences of racism, rather than institutional or systemic racism. Although the fact that there is less institutional racism is a step forward, there is still racism within our community. This needs to be addressed by individuals, as there can be detrimental outcomes on the victims. These outcomes such as low self-esteem, reduced resilience, increased behaviour problems and lower levels of wellbeing, can impact our society in terms of violence and crimes.

Similarly, as suggested by Ms. Priest, “We know that children who experience poor health and wellbeing are less likely to engage in education, employment and other activities that support them to lead healthy and productive lives and to participate meaningfully in the community.”

There must be an active movement to cross out all instances of racism within our Australian community. To contribute to this cause you can join the ‘It stops with me’ campaign held by the Australian Humans Right Commission.

A Glass of wine a day; keeping depression away

Image

Original Image – Sarah Plowman photography

A new Spanish study published in BCM Medicine journal has found a correlation between a glass of wine a day and a healthy heart – even suggesting that a glass a day might help avoid depression.

Depression is the most prevalent mental disorder in the world, with an increasing number of diagnoses. While previous studies undertaken have shown consuming a lot of alcohol (exceeding 7 glasses a week), may be a sign of depression or other mental problems, this study has proven alcohol in moderation could benefit mental health.

In the study, participants who drank 2-7 glasses a week were the least likely to suffer from depression (compared to non drinkers)

Lead researcher Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez commented, “One drink a day, preferentially wine, may help prevent depression, if you are not a drinker, please don’t start drinking, and keep your consumption in the range of one or less drinks a day, and consider drinking wine instead of other alcoholic beverages. ”

However this study may not be conclusive – as it wouldn’t be the consumption of alcohol that would be the sole contributor. Many other factors may be at work in the potential connection between wine and depression. A fulfilling social life is the most important factor we know that protects people from depression, and maybe moderate wine consumption related to increased socialisation. Furthermore in the study, they found those who drank a moderate amount of wine were more likely to be married men who were also physically active.

I’m back and reporting for Jour101!

Hey! Remember me? I’m back to post for my subject Jour101, and over the next 5 weeks you’ll be hearing from me on the topic of mental illness. The assignment was to blog on ‘topical issues’, (from a news angle), which I believe should be more often reported in the media, but are not. As soon as I read this I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to bring some awareness to mental illness.

Mental illness is a very prevalent issue in our society today, with more and more people being affected by this in one way or another. Although people are now more accepting and understanding of these, there is still a lack of knowledge about it, partly due to the lack of media coverage on it. From my experience, I’ve found most of the views in society about mental illness are based on generalisations.

So keep tuned to hear some news on different illnesses!