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National eating disorder charity asks employers for support and understanding on World Mental Health Day

The 10 October is World Mental Health Day, an international event that aims to encourage discussion about mental health issues. This year, the focus is mental health in the workplace. 

To mark the occasion, Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, is calling on workplaces to be responsible and replace any stigma and misunderstanding with support and understanding for eating disorder sufferers.  

Mental health problems are all too common in the workplace and are the leading cause of sickness absence. In 2016, research from Beat found that one in three eating disorder sufferers experience stigma or discrimination at work. 

The charity surveyed more than 650 people and found other failings by employers: 

Tom Quinn, Director of External Affairs at Beat said: “On this day it is crucial to highlight eating disorders and their implications for somebody who works or studies at university; we are often contacted by people worried about their colleagues and employees on our helpline.  

“Often, employees with eating disorders present little difficulty at work and excel at their job. Whatever difficulties they have, they are likely to make strenuous efforts to keep their illness to themselves to avoid their disorder being noticed. 

“Workplaces can play an active role in tackling stigma and supporting a person’s recovery by making reasonable adjustments.  

“For this reason, the stigma and misunderstanding experienced by so many in the workplace must be replaced with support and understanding led by a formal mechanism of support.” 

An eating disorder is a disability and therefore employees have the same rights as someone with a physical disability, under the Equality Act 2010.   

This includes reasonable adjustments such as absence to attend appointments or lengthy treatments.  

How workplaces can help: 

It’s important to note that these are just suggestions and whilst could be reasonable in one place might not be practical in another place of work.  

Other, less obvious, things to be aware of are: 

Beat estimates 1.25 million people of all ages and backgrounds, are affected by an eating disorder in the UK. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness but recovery is possible.  

Finding treatment quickly is crucial in saving lives and Beat can provide the first contact to guide and support people in accessing the treatment they need.  

Eating disorders are serious, complex mental illnesses and early intervention is key to recovery. All evidence tells us the sooner someone with an eating disorder gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and sustained recovery. 

Beat supports thousands of people every year through its helplines, message board and online services, which are funded by supporters.