Raising Eating Disorder Awareness Among Black Populations As A Way Of Enhancing Recovery

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Written by Seye Akinyemi

One fundamental cause of lack of effective diagnosis of treatment of eating disorders among the Black population is lack of awareness about the disorder. Historically, eating disorders have stereotypically been associated with thin, white women, which has led to the erroneous assumption that eating disorders are not a big problem among Black people. Yet available research demonstrates that eating disorders are as prevalent among the Black population as among other segments of the population. For instance, research conducted found out that 50% of Black teenagers in the US are more likely to exhibit bulimic behaviour – like binging – compared to their white counterparts.

Because of lack of awareness about the disorder, Black people with eating disorders are less likely to seek treatment thusly ensuring that the problem is not adequately dealt with. Additionally, due to the stereotypes, doctors are less likely to inquire about eating disorders when interacting with Black patients. Again, lack of awareness about eating disorders is complicated by the fact that many Black people aren’t willing to admit to having an eating disorder. There is also a lack of eating disorder discourses within the Black community, which is not surprising since the disorder is normally associated with white women.

Among the Black population, one reason that makes it hard for Black people with eating disorders to seek help is because of the stereotypical labelling around the disorder. Such stereotypes include the belief that eating disorders only affect thin teenagers with ‘silly emotions,’ and that Black people are ‘strong’ and can deal with their problems on their own. Black men and boys are unlikely to seek help because of the prevailing belief that the disorder affects only women.

I am convinced that due to the challenges that Black people face, the journey to recovery becomes fraught with difficulties. With low levels of awareness about the disorder, fewer Black people will be willing to seek help. This impedes recovery – nay, it ensures that those with disorders won’t seek help.

Yet, there are several approaches that can be adopted and implemented among the Black population in order to raise awareness about this disorder. With higher levels of awareness, more Black people will be willing to seek help and be assisted in their journey to recovery.

RAISING AWARENESS IN THE HEALTH SECTOR

Research shows that health care practitioners – especially doctors – are less likely to diagnose eating disorders among Black patients because of the stereotypical belief that the disorder doesn’t affect the Black population. One way of increasing awareness of the disorder among the Black population is to train health care professionals to regularly screen their Black patients for eating disorders in order to make possible diagnoses. This approach will help ensure that health care professionals don’t operate under the stereotypical belief that eating disorders don’t affect Black communities.

MORE EATING DISORDERS EVENTS IN BLACK COMMUNITIES

To increase awareness, there is need for stakeholders to hold more eating disorders events in Black community spaces. These events should be used to address the myriad of issues revolving around eating disorders such as symptoms, and also to encourage those who suspect that they are suffering from eating disorders to seek help. These events should also be included as part of other bigger events about the social and health issues that specifically affect Black communities.


EATING DISORDER ADVOCACY

Stakeholders in the health field and other related fields must become powerful voices in raising awareness of eating disorders in the Black community, and for culturally informed interventions and treatments for Black folks with eating disorders. There is need for strong advocacy among Black communities for intuitive eating and general education on eating disorder warning signs among the Black communities.


MORE SOCIAL MEDIA USE TO CREATE AWARENESS

Undoubtedly, social media has become an important tool for raising awareness of and advocating for various social issues affecting societies throughout the world. Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to increase eating disorder awareness among Black communities. It offers a platform where Black people can freely express their opinions and struggles with eating disorders. However, it’s important for social media to be used effectively in order to reach as many Black people as possible. Social media will be a vital tool in helping to fight the various inhibitions in Black community that make many people unable to come out and talk freely about their eating disorders. Social media will offer them a freer environment to express themselves.

MORE SOCIAL MEDIA USE TO CREATE AWARENESS

Undoubtedly, social media has become an important tool for raising awareness of and advocating for various social issues affecting societies throughout the world. Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to increase eating disorder awareness among Black communities. It offers a platform where Black people can freely express their opinions and struggles with eating disorders. However, it’s important for social media to be used effectively in order to reach as many Black people as possible. Social media will be a vital tool in helping to fight the various inhibitions in Black community that make many people unable to come out and talk freely about their eating disorders. Social media will offer them a freer environment to express themselves.


CONCERNED EFFORTS TO FIGHT STEREOTYPES REVOLVING AROUND EATING DISORDERS

One major reason eating disorders are not given the priority they deserve among the Black population is because of the stereotypical belief that they only affect thin, white women. To raise eating disorders awareness, it’s important for stakeholders to constantly fight this stereotype through demonstrating that eating disorders can affect anyone, including those in Black communities. Of course, fighting this stereotype is a big challenge but through dedicated and persistent efforts – like using literature that depict Black people recovering from the disorders instead of always using white women – it will be possible to progressively change people’s attitudes and perceptions about eating disorders. Within Black communities, it is important to constantly send the message that eating disorders can affect anyone and also encourage Black people to speak about the disorder by showing them that it is not a ‘weakness’ if one is struggling. Awareness is likely to rise when Black people embrace the fact that eating disorders are ubiquitous and can affect people regardless of their race, gender and social class.


CONCLUSION

It is obvious that one of the biggest hindrances to dealing with eating disorders among Black communities is lack of awareness about the disorder. Due to the stereotypical labelling, many Black people believe they cannot suffer from eating disorders. To deal with this problem, it’s important to raise awareness of the disorder through various methods in order to encourage people to seek help and also give hope to those struggling with eating disorders. The stakeholders in different sectors have a vital role to play in raising awareness.

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