Shorten: Eating Disorders Are A 'National Crisis' And It's Time Morrison Admits It

The Opposition Leader wrote a letter to the Prime Minister urging the fellow dad of two girls to tackle the epidemic.

More than one million men and women suffer from eating disorders in Australia and Bill Shorten has asked the Government to take urgent action.

The Opposition Leader said he was "seeking cooperation" from the PM to create a robust strategy for what he called a "growing national crisis".

“We're both dads of two girls and I know we both want our daughters to feel supported and confident in who they are," he wrote.

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"I’m sure you share my concerns about the impact of manipulated images on social media and supporting our children navigate these pressures.”

Body image is constantly ranked as one of the top three concerns of young Australian men and women, Shorten mentioned in his letter.

Shorten's call for a bipartisan strategy comes at a time where eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness in Australia.

Despite this, only 25 percent of sufferers are being treated, according to The Butterfly Foundation.

"We both want our daughters to feel supported and confident in who they are," Bill Shorten wrote to the PM on the "national crisis" of eating disorders. Image: BSIP/UIG via Getty.

A National Plan on Eating Disorders would ideally involve research, data collection and access to services, Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health, Deb O'Neill, told 10 daily.

"We need a connected plan to prevent and intervene early and better help those who end up living with a chronic mental illness," O'Neill described.

Psychologist and director of Body Matters Australasia, Sarah McMahon, told 10 daily she applauded Shorten's push.

"Historically in Australia eating disorders have slipped through the gaps, with buck passing between different sides of parliament, state and federal health systems and whether they are treated as medical or psychological issues.

We need politicians to work together, recognise the seriousness of eating disorders," McMahon shared.

O'Neill argued Australians with eating disorders "need more" than the 10 Medicare-supported treatment sessions they have access to yearly.

"Think about it like cancer. The dosage for cancer is 40 treatments -- imagine if you only got 10? You already know it's not going to work," O'Neill stated.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt made a commitment over 18 months ago to develop a more comprehensive strategy and is yet to deliver, O'Neill said.

Body image is constantly ranked as one of the top three concerns of young Australian men and women. Image: Photofusion/Universal Images Group via Getty.

Hunt serviced a media release in June this year that stated he was "in the process" of establishing an Eating Disorders Working Group.

"The group will provide advice on whether existing Medical Benefits Schedule [MBS] items identified are appropriate for the treatment of eating disorders and options to better align the MBS with national standards for safe integrated treatment of eating disorders," the statement read.

Since 2013, the Government has invested more than $11 million in eating disorder treatment and support.

Eating disorders are usually a complex combination of individual factors, Sydney-based clinical psychologist Elizabeth Talbot told 10 daily.

"Personality factors like perfectionism, high achieving and control, social factors like over-focus and over-valuing body image, family factors like families with high ‘expressed emotion’," Talbot said.

"I’d imagine the selfie generation would be experiencing an increase in social body image expectations, which could mean an increase in disordered eating," she added.

People with eating disorders often use apps that allow them to calculate how many calories they take in throughout the day. Image: BSIP/UIG via Getty.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) recently launched an updated Code of Ethics Practice Note about digitally altered images on social media, "which is essentially a ban on their own sector", O'Neill said.

Morrison is yet to respond to Shorten's letter.

In the meantime Hunt has sent a video message, to eating disorder sufferers ahead of the festive season.

"Whilst Christmas is an incredibly important time for family and friends, for some it can be difficult -- particularly those who have eating disorders.

The pressures and expectations can magnify some of the great challenges we have," he said in a Butterfly Foundation public service announcement.

10 daily is awaiting further comment from Hunt's office.

Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 ED HOPE (33 4673).

For urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Featured image: Getty.

Contact the author: samelia@networkten.com.au.