Ridiculous, huh? And yet…how often is this exactly what we practice?
As a church, our mission is to care for the broken and to point them to Christ. But what areas do we designate as ‘off limits?’ How, for example, do we tackle the issue of eating disorders? Do we even try?
Yes, medical care is important. But what about emotional, spiritual, mental support? It’s not just those fighting the disorder who need help. Families and friends are often isolated and stretched beyond breaking.
Why it matters:
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
- A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover
- The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.
- 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems
Here’s why the church needs to help:
- Only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment
- About 80% of the girls/women who have accessed care for their eating disorders do not get the intensity of treatment they need to stay in recovery – they are often sent home weeks earlier than the recommended stay
- The average cost for basic 12 week NHS anorexia treatment is nearly £25,000. It is estimated that individuals with eating disorders need anywhere from 3 – 6 months of inpatient care. Health insurance companies for several reasons do not typically cover the cost of treating eating disorders . Waiting lists are enormous, but to go private can cost twice as much.
Not an issue for your young people?
- Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents
- 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25
- 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight
- 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight
This might be just my experience, but in some thirty years of church involvement, I’ve listened to a lot of talks on inner beauty. Been to countless ‘Colour Me Beautiful’ evenings. Studied godly womanhood till it’s coming out of my eyes. These are all good things.
But in all this time, I’ve yet to hear anyone speaking out about eating disorders. About how the church can help. About what the gospel says to those who feel trapped in their own bodies. Don’t mishear me. I’m not church – bashing – the opposite. One of the biggest factors in my recovery was my experience of gospel community. Not the NHS. Not the self-help books. Not the experts.
Hopefully this is already on your church agenda. But if not, maybe it’s an area that’s worth considering.