Social media may be driving high eating disorder rates in North West, says counselling provider

Susan Gibson, manager, Derry Well Women Centre. DER2018GS030
Susan Gibson, manager, Derry Well Women Centre. DER2018GS030

The manager of a Derry counselling provider for eating disorder sufferers, has said it’s sadly ‘not surprising’ that twice as many young people in the North West are being treated for such conditions as elsewhere in the North.

Susan Gibson, of Derry Well Women, believes the misuse of social media may be a factor driving more and more young people to self-harm through abnormal eating behaviours.

She was speaking after new Department of Health (DoH) figures showed the number of monthly patients from the Western Trust accessing children and adolescent eating disorder services averaged 69 last year. That’s more than double the average in the Northern Trust (32) and far more than in both the Belfast (37) andSouthern trusts (46).

Ms. Gibson, whose staff provide counselling for people with Anorexia and Bulimia, as well as for thosewith less obvious conditions such as over-eating and purging, said it was a growing phenomenon.

“It’s not surprising. A lot of people are overeating and then purging. People use that as a king of coping mechanism,” she told the ‘Journal.’

The figures underlined the need for a dedicated residential service in the Western Trust for people with eating disorders, which, as a mental health condition, she said, is a leading cause of death for young women in the North.

“A third, a third and a third is how we look at it. What I mean by that is that a third of people will recover, a third will live with a condition until the end of their lives and a third, unfortunately, will die as a result of a condition,” she claimed.

Foyle MLA Mark H. Durkan, who requested the information from DOH, said: “Clearly eating disorders are on the increase and this is tied in with mental health issues in general.

“What really shocked me was the figures for the WHSCT. We need to drill down and find out why it’s so acute here.”

Ms. Gibson believes social media is a contributory factor.

“Social media can be very isolating. Look at ‘selfies’ young girls are posting of themselves in which they try to make themselves look as thin as they possibly can. It’s a huge pressure,” she said.

Derry Well Woman offer counselling for sufferers from eating disorders. They are also running a number of courses on social media this Autumn.www.derrywellwoman.org