An eating disorder is a serious mental health issue, with the most common forms being anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating.  Such an illness can have a huge impact on an individual, not only physically, but psychologically and socially too.  It can affect an individual’s relationships with others, their ability to function normally within a social situation or at work, and can impact severely on their overall health and wellbeing.

As we mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week (22-28 February), we thought it would be a perfect time for us too to shine a light on this debilitating condition, the impact it can have on sufferers, their loved ones, and others around them, and just how vital it is for individuals to receive the support they deserve in dealing with their demons.

Despite being a serious illness, statistics do support early intervention – with results from the Beat study showing that those who sought help early had a 33% relapse rate compared with a 63% relapse rate for those who sought help later on.  It’s clear therefore, that the sooner someone suffering from an eating disorder gets help, the more likely they are to make a full, and often lasting, recovery.

And, from an employer’s perspective, there is so much that can be done to support staff when it comes to dealing with an eating disorder and to encourage early intervention and treatment.  This includes:

– Providing training for managers on how to spot the signs and how to act on these

– Implementing a company policy concerning eating disorders and mental health

– Modifying an individual’s job duties as appropriate

– Providing an individual with paid time off to attend medical appointments

– Providing a dedicated counselling service

In fact, treatments such as counselling which encourage individuals to talk freely are considered to be the most effective – primarily because they look to tackle head-on the underlying emotional issues associated with an eating disorder.

Workplace counselling can come in many forms, one of which is an employee assistance programme (or EAP).  Designed to provide confidential information, support and counselling to employees with personal and work-related problems (including mental health issues), EAPs are an invaluable resource to a workforce, helping to identify the root problem, support the individual in their recovery, reduce absenteeism, and – ultimately – enhance staff productivity and business profitability.

As an organisation, we are wholly committed to supporting employers and employees alike in ensuring a happy, healthy and motivated workplace, in helping to minimise the impacts of mental health problems, and in promoting the real value of effective support channels.  Which is why we offer employee assistance as standard to all of our healthcare plan policyholders – at absolutely no extra cost.

To find out more about EAPs and the benefits they can bring, take a look at our blog.

To access the support service, please call 01902 371000.

*Beat (Beating Eating Disorders)