How social media pushed teen’s anorexia to near death

 

FILMMAKER and father Scott Watkins-Sully has seen first-hand the way insidious social media posts can validate a child's eating disorder.

Mr Watkins-Sully and his wife Michelle left Mission Beach for Sydney in 2017 to get treatment for their daughter Jessica, who starved herself to near death in a bout with anorexia nervosa.

He said one of the first warning signs was when Jessica, 14, had shown him pictures of anorexic-looking girls on Instagram.

"It's hard to tell where (these posts) come from or who benefits from it," he said. "Obviously there'd be influence from diet companies and things like that, but in my experience it seems to be coming from sufferers themselves as a way of validation."

Pro-anorexia influencers have become a rising trend on social media sites such as Instagram, with dangerous consequences.
Pro-anorexia influencers have become a rising trend on social media sites such as Instagram, with dangerous consequences.

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It took about eight weeks for Jessica to go from a normal girl to near death after the eating disorder affected her heart.

Mr Watkins-Sully said parents with teenagers and young girls especially needed to be vigilant about what sort of images their children were being exposed to on social media.

Scott and Michelle Watkins-Sully are crowd-funding to produce a documentary chronicling their daughter Jessica's journey with anorexia.
Scott and Michelle Watkins-Sully are crowd-funding to produce a documentary chronicling their daughter Jessica's journey with anorexia.

Last year, Mr Watkins-Sully announced plans to produce a crowd-funded documentary detailing their daughter's battle with anorexia and the difficulty getting treatment for it in the Far North.

They had planned to travel to the Far North to shoot footage in April this year, but were delayed by the coronavirus lockdown.

"The lockdown has changed the story quite a bit," he said. "I'm pleased to say she's doing very well, despite us living in a coronavirus hotspot."

Originally published as How social media pushed teen's anorexia to near death



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