On 3rd March, during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we ran our first ever Campaigner Day. Caroline and Anna attended because they wanted to deepen their understanding of how to use their voices to make change.
Caroline: I specifically wanted to build my confidence about approaching the decision makers who have the power to influence policy. As a Beat Young Ambassador, I try and keep my finger on the pulse about what is happening in the world of eating disorders, and I often stumble across disheartening facts about treatment and access across the UK. While there have been many positive steps forward in recent years, there have also been steps backwards. Attending the Campaigner Day provided useful information about how I can channel my frustration into productive action.
Anna: I was keen to understand, not necessarily how to get my voice heard, but who I needed to get my voice heard by. For example, contacting my MP is useful, but urging them to move my message onwards is key. I was also keen to understand who the decision makers are within the NHS and how to get in touch with them.
The day consisted of three sections: the structure of Government and Parliament (which Caroline and I now know mean different things!), the structure of the NHS, which was super interesting to learn more about, and a fun collaborative activity which involved making our own campaign.
Caroline: The first two sessions I found very useful, because I was a bit oblivious to how these departments function, how they work together – and how they don’t work together! Learning about these two structures helped me understand who the best people are to contact about understanding access to treatment and services in my community. And not only understanding, but improving these areas.
Anna: Understanding the way that funding works in the NHS has given me further insight into why early treatment is key – not only for the obvious reason of a better chance for full recovery, but also for practical reasons. Early intervention reduces overall NHS spending, so it not only gives sufferers a greater chance of recovery, but also means more funds are available to provide more people with access to life-saving treatment sooner.
I found these two sessions particularly important when thinking about creating change , because I want to be a part of the movement that prevents future sufferers from experiencing the injustices that are present in today’s system.
The final session really helped put into perspective how many questions there are to consider when building and taking part in a campaign. Who am I trying to reach? What do I want them to do? Who can I work with and what steps can we take to make this happen? The session highlighted the amount of thought and planning that is needed to carry out a campaign – it made me thankful for everyone who campaigns for Beat.
It was also helpful to meet other Ambassadors and Campaigners from all walks of life who attended this eventful day. I often feel like I can’t really change much on my own, but I do feel that together we can make a difference.
Caroline: I found that I really appreciated meeting campaigners from all around the country and to learn how far people were willing to travel to be able to attend. It really highlights just how much of an influence Beat has, and shows how many people believe in what Beat stands for. I believe Campaigner Days help foster hope and drive within the campaigner community, something that can only be a positive.
Overall, the day proved very helpful in providing practical information about how to campaign. I feel entrusted not just to speak out on behalf of Beat, but rather campaign with Beat and make lasting and important change. Thank you to the campaigns team for putting together such a memorable and beautiful day!