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Exploring barriers to South Asian help-seeking for eating disorders

Jackie Wales (Leicestershire Adult Eating Disorder Service, Leicestershire NHS Partnership Trust, Leicester, UK)
Nicola Brewin (Leicestershire Adult Eating Disorder Service, Leicestershire NHS Partnership Trust, Leicester, UK)
Raghu Raghavan (Mary Seacole Research Centre, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)
Jon Arcelus (Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)

Mental Health Review Journal

ISSN: 1361-9322

Article publication date: 13 March 2017




Referrals to specialist eating disorder (ED) services from the South Asian (SA) community are under-represented, despite research suggesting that disordered eating attitudes and behaviours of SA people are similar to the population in general. The purpose of this paper is to identify the reasons for this and sought to inform ways to encourage help-seeking.


A qualitative methodology was used to investigate barriers to help-seeking for EDs among the SA community. A key informant focus group was conducted with clinicians working within the local specialist ED service (participants n=16, 12 female, 4 male). Six focus groups were conducted with members of the SA community in Leicester, UK (participants n=28, 23 female, 5 male), recruited from a local university, two charities and Children, Young People and Family Centres.


A number of themes emerged as possible factors for delaying early access to help: lack of knowledge about EDs and their potential seriousness, ideals regarding body shape, family living circumstances and the role of food in the community. Participants acknowledged stigma among their community associated with mental health issues, including EDs and concerns about confidentiality when approaching services, particularly primary care.


General practitioners and specialist services need to be aware of the potential barriers to help-seeking for EDs as early specialist help is recommended for effective treatment. An educational campaign around EDs specifically designed with the SA community in mind may improve awareness, reduce stigma and promote early help-seeking.



Wales, J., Brewin, N., Raghavan, R. and Arcelus, J. (2017), "Exploring barriers to South Asian help-seeking for eating disorders", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 40-50.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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