Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions associated with significant physical complications and increased mortality rates.
They have a significant and underestimated impact on Australian society, and, at any point in time, about one in 20 Australians is living with an eating disorder, a rate that is only increasing.
Currently, approximately 50 per cent of people living with an eating disorder fully recover, taking an average seven years to achieve full recovery. Previous research into the process of recovery for eating disorders has found that they are very complex, and there is no single ‘correct’ pathway for treatment.
With this in mind, Butterfly has conducted a research project into the recovery process, commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of NSW, Insights in Recovery. The findings have then been translated into a practical guide to help health professionals adopt a person-centred, recovery-orientated approach when working with patients experiencing an eating disorder.
Insight from more than 100 Australians who have a lived experience of an eating disorder was incorporated into the report, and the details of what helped them recover were analysed. Insights in Recovery explored what motivated them to engage in recovery, how they understand recovery in their lives and what sort of professional responses they found helpful.
Researchers found that important issues aiding recovery include developing a sense of identity, experiencing personal agency in the recovery process, supportive relationships, choice and a sense of control, as well as confidence and hope. Participants also noted that it was important that they were seen as an individual person first rather than feeling categorised by their illness.
Central to the guidelines is a 'help me to feel safe' approach. That is:
Overall, the data collected in the Insights in Recovery project supports the use of the personal recovery model as relevant to people with eating disorders. The project has highlighted areas where recovery oriented approaches for people with eating disorders may require a different emphasis to treatment of other mental illnesses. Of particular note is the need for:
Findings from this study have informed the development of a new resource on recovery oriented practice as a companion to National Framework for Recovery Oriented Mental Health Services.
The Insights in Recovery project was implemented by the Butterfly Foundation in partnership with the Mental Health Commission of NSW, and supported in part by the Ian Potter Foundation.
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