ART forms the heart of new Cardiff and Vale eating disorder support website.
To mark Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Cardiff and Vale Adult Eating Disorders Service has launched a new website to support people living with eating disorders.
Created in close collaboration with service users, artists, film-makers, counsellors, psychologists, a dietitian and web designer Rhys Welsh, the new website highlights pathways people can follow to find support.
Around 1.6 million people in the UK currently live with an eating disorder. Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders are challenging at the best of times.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, additional stresses have included not being able to see family and friends, outdoor exercise being limited to once a day, and the potential binge-purge cycle arising from stockpiling food due to being required to shop as infrequently as possible.
An eating disorder is a mental illness that manifests as an unhealthy attitude to food, which can become obsessive and make you unwell.
People with eating disorders might eat too much or too little, spend a lot of time worrying about body shape and weight, and have very strict routines around food and exercise. Eating disorders can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background.
Even if your symptoms don’t directly match those of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, you may still have an eating disorder. The important thing is to get help.
Jo Whitfield, National Officer, Wales, at BEAT, said: “The new Cardiff and Vale adult eating disorder service website is a friendly and welcoming gateway for people affected by eating disorders.
“It’s a place where those who are contemplating seeking help for an eating disorder can find out more about the recovery journey they are about to embark on, and it provides those already undergoing treatment an inspiring place to return to throughout their journey.
“The content is a wonderful collaboration drawing upon lived experience from past and present users of the service. It interweaves art, photography, poetry and animation with factual advice and guidance in one accessible virtual hub, bringing reassurance, hope and belief that recovery from these serious mental illnesses is achievable and possible.
“The project is fantastic and I look forward to seeing the collection of art and poetry continue to grow as people continue with their journeys to recovery.”
The website launch is being celebrated with the opening of The Creative Insights exhibition, featuring artwork commissioned by Cardiff and Vale Health Charity.
You can view The Creative Insights exhibition via The Virtual Hearth Gallery. The healing benefits of creativity and art are central to the concept of the new website.
The creation of the website provides an opportunity for service users to meet online weekly and work alongside facilitators Katja Stiller and Sarah Featherstone to relax with mindfulness, find their creative flow in writing and drawing, sharing their experiences and positive coping mechanisms.
“The group formed a special bond, supporting each other through lockdown,” said Debbie Woodward, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
“Participants reported that they were grateful to have something positive to focus on in a safe space, and to give something back.”
One service user said the overall experience “has been truly remarkable” for them, and deem themselves lucky to have had the opportunity to take part.
The website features specially created animations to help people to better understand eating disorders. The website is a collaboration between the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board Psychology directorate, Dietetics, Cardiff & Vale Health Charity and Tanio.