An art exhibition at the Arnolfini featuring art by people with lived experience of eating disorders will mark the launch of a new Bristol based team, the Eating Disorders Health Integration Team (HIT). The exhibition includes work from current patients of the specialist eating disorder service at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, as well as pieces made or collected by others involved in the Eating Disorders HIT, and by the charity Anorexia and Bulimia Care. The exhibition takes place on 6 October from 5.30-7pm.
Katie Green, author of ‘Lighter than my Shadow’, a graphic memoir of eating disorders, abuse and recovery, will speak at the event. Katie is a south west-based illustrator with lived experience of an eating disorder, and will talk about how she has depicted her experiences in her work.
The Eating Disorders HIT is a team of people with lived experience of eating disorders, psychologists, academics, commissioners, care and support providers and other experts, working together to improve the lives of people with eating disorders in Bristol. They are focused on improving care and quality of life for people with eating disorders.
The new team is part of Bristol Health Partners, which brings together the city’s hospitals, health commissioners, local authority and universities to make a difference to Bristol people’s health, and the services they rely on. The Eating Disorders HIT’s Directors are Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Hugh Herzig and the University of the West of England’s Dr Helen Malson, at the Centre for Appearance Research.
Eating disorders have some of the highest levels of morbidity and mortality associated with any mental health problem, but they do not attract widespread public attention and tend not to be prioritised by service providers as among the severe and enduring mental illnesses. Eating disorders afflict young and potentially productive members of society and their families, typically endure for years, and the health and social care costs associated are substantial.
The cost of eating disorders in health and social care is estimated to be £5 billion a year. Emergency hospital admissions for eating disorders have increased, and the number of children and young people with being referred for help nationally has risen. In 2013/14, 40 per cent of adult eating disorder referrals in Bristol were for university students, a transient population particularly vulnerable to inconsistent and delayed treatment.
Dr Hugh Herzig said:
“Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. People with eating disorders often fall between services, and can often be ambivalent or wary about treatment. They can get very medically unwell and need hospital treatment, but those admissions can often be chaotic and poorly managed. Our team aims to address these issues by joining up mental health, paediatrics and adult hospital services to stop people falling through the gaps. At our launch we’re hoping to empower patients and families alike to have an open discussion about their experiences.”