Researchers from Loughborough University in the UK have teamed up with UK Eating Disorder charity Beat to create an animated video that explores how social media affects people with an Eating Disorder.
The short film looks at how social media can be both harmful and helpful, and provides useful advice for those being negatively affected by what they see online and to support recovery.
The video is based on research by Loughborough University’s Dr Paula Saukko in collaboration with Dr Val Mitchell, and Dr Helen Malson, of Eating Disorders Health Integration Team in Bristol, UK. After interviewing 31 people with diverse Eating Disorders during the pandemic – a period that has seen a surge in both social media use and mental health issues – the team then worked with Beat to translate the research findings into a video.
The video gives top tips on how to keep boundaries on social media by unfollowing content on diets, or content that fuel negative thoughts and moderating consumption and interaction with friends by muting or switching off when feeling overwhelmed.
Dr Saukko explains:
“Using the easy multi-media possibilities of social media to chat is vital for keeping in touch and receiving support when not feeling well, especially since Eating Disorders are often socially isolating.
“However, social media encourages users to compare themselves to others in terms of looks or success and foments constant engagement, replies, and insecurities when others are not responding or reacting.”
Colette Mullings, Head of Marketing at Beat, said:
“Social media has been both a help and hindrance for those we support: we know that irresponsible content can be very damaging for those unwell or vulnerable to Eating Disorders, but at the same time we often hear of people benefiting from supportive recovery communities, especially during the pandemic.
“We are eagerly awaiting the results, and hope that the video gives viewers encouragement to continue engaging with positive communities, but also to switch off when needed.”
Dr Saukko’s team, together with Beat, will evaluate the impact of the video in terms of engagement and experience of users.
For those of you who did not know, September is suicide prevention month. An entire month dedicated to talking about this important issue, raising awareness, and fostering hope in individuals who may not know where to turn.
Suicide impacts people of all ages and backgrounds. In Canada, an average of over 10 people die by suicide per day. For each person who dies by suicide, there are many more who contemplate it or attempt it.
Eating Disorders have an extremely negative impact on the mind and body, so it is no shock that people with Eating Disorders may consider taking their own lives. Studies show that 20% of people with anorexia have attempted suicide. 60% of people who purge engage in suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
The purpose of this blog is to show people that there IS hope. Help is available. There are people who care, even though it may not seem like it. The information below was compiled from anonymous individuals who have experienced suicidal thoughts while suffering from an Eating Disorder. These tips and tricks have helped them overcome their suicidal thoughts and urges, and it is our hope that they can help someone else too.
If I don’t take action immediately when I feel down, I know that my thoughts can travel in a downward spiral. Here are some protective factors that have helped me:
Getting out of the space I am in, perhaps going for a walk outside
Calling a friend or someone you are close to
Thinking about what would be left behind if you acted on the urge
Texting or calling a helpline
Creating a distraction plan. This can be in the form of a list, and the items on the list can be as simple as making a cup of tea, watching a movie, or partaking in a hobby that you enjoy, such as playing computer games or a musical instrument. We find that making a small list of some distractions is convenient to have on hand for those distressing moments.
Talking it out. Similar to what was suggested above, it helps to talk through our feelings. This can look like talking to a friend, a parent, a therapist, or even talking to yourself (as silly as this may seem, it has helped us to speak out our thoughts and feelings!)
Journaling. When we find it difficult to explain our feelings, we like to journal, and keep the expectation low. It doesn’t have to be perfectly neat or grammatically correct.
Delay it. It helps us to think of distressing feelings as a train, or a big wave. It passes by, and it stops eventually.
Find things you can relate to. Sometimes social media can be triggering, see post https://nied.ca/social-media-and-eating-disorders/ but sometimes it can be useful to scroll through some positive Instagram accounts, or to pin some positive or relatable quotes on Pinterest. (In the past we have liked to share relatable posts on Tumblr).
Crying it out. Don’t be ashamed. We all do it! It’s normal and healthy.
It is tragic that so many people die from suicide, and so many of those deaths by suicide coexist with an ED, that is challenging on its own. Everyone deserves to be happy and to live a fulfilling life, especially those of us incredibly strong individuals who battle with mental health issues every day. Remember that there is always going to be at least one person who cares about you, wants to help you, and would hate to see you suffer. As cliché as this may sound, you are truly not alone. Help is always available; don’t ever hesitate to reach out. Your mental health is a priority.
The new Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS) by Crisis Services Canada, enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support by phone, in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7
KidsHelpPhone Ages 25 Years and Under in Canada: 1-800-668-6868
First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness 24/7 Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
Canadian Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line 1-866-925-4419
Trans LifeLine – All Ages: 1-877-330-6366
Alberta Crisis Line – All Ages: 403-266-4357
British Columbia Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-800-SUICIDE
Manitoba Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-877-435-7170
New Brunswick Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-800-667-5005
Newfoundland and Labrador Line All Ages: 1-888-737-4668
NWT All Ages 24/7: 1-800-661-0844
Nova Scotia Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-888-429-8167
Nunavut Line – All Ages 7 pm-11 pm (EST): 1-800-265-3333
Ontario Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-866-531-2600
Ontario College and University Students: 1-866-925-5454
Crisis Response Ontario – Kenora, Dryden, Fort Frances, Rainy River and everywhere in between: 1-866-888-8988
Prince Edward Island Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-800-218-2885
Quebec National Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-866-277-3553
Saskatchewan Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-306-525-5333
Yukon Crisis Line – All Ages 7 pm-12 am (PST): 1-844-533-3030