Camden teenagers launch campaign for Eating Disorders Awareness Week

The #FREEthebutterfly campaign marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016

The #FREEthebutterfly campaign marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016 - Credit: Archant

A group of young patients at The Royal Free Hospital have started an online campaign to mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

The teenagers, who are all patients of the Royal Free’s eating disorder service, began the #FREEthebutterfly campaign to educate people about the realities of living with eating disorders.

The campaigners have been tweeting photographs of their hands with butterflies drawn on and then sharing these online around the world.

The youngsters said: “We felt that there was a lack of awareness about eating disorders and as a result of this we were being stigmatised.

“Through ‘freeing’ the butterfly, we hope to change people’s misconceptions and tell them the truth about eating disorders. By getting the butterfly to reach as many people as we can, we hope to spread the message as far as possible.

“We are patients of the eating disorder service at the Royal Free and have first-hand experience of the great work that they do. The service provides a flexible approach to treating eating disorders and is very different to typical in-patient facilities which have higher relapse rates.”

Samantha Swinglehurst, lead nurse for the eating disorders unit at the hospital, said: “This is a brilliant campaign and a really creative way of removing some of the stigma associated with eating disorders - we are so pleased that our patients came up with this idea themselves. If we can encourage people to talk about this illness we will help families to spot it as early as possible.

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“We are really proud of the unit here at the Royal Free - we aim to reduce the number of patients who need to be admitted to hospital by providing treatment in the community. If patients do not need to be admitted it means their recoveries can be much quicker and it means they can access the support of family and friends much more easily while they are recovering.”