To Whom It May Concern:
It was with great sadness and frustration that I read the article Housing Crisis by Louis Nowra in this weekend’s (25th Janurary) Good Weekend.
In particular, I took great objection to Nowra’s description of arriving at a house ‘to be greet by an anoxeric [sic] woman.’ Anorexia is a mental illness; a medical condition. It has no place in a description of anyone not diagnosed with such a condition, especially someone the author (apparently) has not warmed to, as this frames the condition as something of which the sufferer should be embarrassed.
Leukemia is a medical condition. Anorexia Nervosa is also a medical condition. When was the last time you described someone as “leukemic”? The trend in reducing an incredibly serious condition to a descriptive moniker synonymous with “thin” is incredibly reductive and erases the suffering of those affected. Anorexia is a noun, referring to an individual who is living with the tortuous disease that has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The mortality rate for individuals with eating disorders is 12 times that in people without eating disorders. Perhaps the word Nowra was searching for was the adjective anorectic, which refers to having no appetite, a loss of appetite, or an individual that is diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.
Grammatical and orthographical tussles aside, neither ‘anorexic’ nor ‘anorectic’ is an appropriate way to describe someone’s body type. Why? Because people diagnosed with anorexia come in all shapes and sizes, and using it as a synonym for “thin” erases sufferers and undermines their selfhood.
When the media acts with such apparent disregard to the thoughts and feelings of those affected by anorexia it perpetuates a culture of stigmatisation of mental illness. It has to stop. I implore editors to act with responsibility and sensitivity.
Perhaps it may be prudent for the editors and authors alike to reflect upon the Mindframe media guidelines for responsible reporting of eating disorders.