A BELFAST model has launched her own campaign to raise awareness about eating disorders in young people across the country.
23-year-old Samantha Reynolds joined forces with local charity CARED (Caring About Recovery from Eating Disorders), an organisation founded by the families of two Northern Ireland girls who were affected badly by the condition.
The mother of two, who specialises in commercial fashion and beauty shoots as well as juggling her work as a busy beauty therapist, is calling for more education for children in the areas of body image, confidence, nutrition and well being.
She says that “not enough is being done” to address the issue with pre-teens and young teenagers and added: “if this issue is tackled early enough and problems aren’t being identified it can have a huge impact on how young people interact socially and how they progress in their educational and work lives.”
Last month to mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week Samantha, who is signed to local agency Frontier Models, launched her campaign in the hope of capturing the attention of those who matter.
She explained: “When I was younger I didn’t get the help I needed and I’m now in a position where I can devote my time to helping others.
“For many people they don’t understand the complexities of the condition and therefore don’t know how to deal with it, or even identify that it’s happening.
“I’m hoping that through this campaign I can help both those suffering and their carers take positive steps to tackle the problem.”
The blonde beauty met with Debbie Howard from CARED and Belfast’s Deputy Lord Mayor Guy Spence to discuss what more can be done and raise awareness so that those who are suffering do not have to do it in silence.
CARED provides support and advice for parents and carers who have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder. Founder Debbie Howard said “We know through our own experiences that eating disorders do not just affect the individual. They can have a devastating impact on the whole family.”
Having struggled with an eating disorder herself from the age of 10, Samantha is keen to show how there is light at the end of the tunnel for young men and women dealing with the illness across the country.
She added: “I was in P6 when I started to cut down on my lunches only eating a ham sandwiches and water, I started going out more after school and wearing baggy clothes so that no one would notice.
“I started to faint a lot in school and a couple of times they had to get an ambulance out to bring me to hospital, they found out I had an irregular heartbeat.
“As I got older and when I found my partner we wanted to have a baby but because I was so thin I had miscarried a number of times. My hair, skin and nails were weak. I’ve been on iron and folic acid tablets for a number of years now.
“I know how lonely and isolating it can be to suffer in silence and I have seen how it can tear families apart and ruin lives.”
Samantha hopes to bring her message to schools, youth clubs and community groups across Northern Ireland to help raise awareness about the devastating illness.
“The thing I found with my eating disorder was that my secret was my way of controlling something. I hated when anyone would find out about it, it wasn’t their business I would think” explained Samantha, adding: “I thought I wasn’t skinny enough to be getting help and I felt unworthy like someone else who was skinnier should get my place on treatment programmes.
“Now I don’t think like that. I want people to know that they don’t have to suffer alone, it’s important that they talk to someone and get help. They may not think they are worth it but I want to tell them that their life is worth it, they can be so much more if we stick together and get help together.
“I know what it’s like to feel alone and I don’t wish that feeling on anyone, I had a parent come up to me in town after seeing me speaking out about it , she said after her son read an article where I was talking about what happened, he came down and asked for help and is now in England getting the help he needs. I was so shocked by, if this campaign helps at least one person then I’m doing something right, you aren’t alone and never think you are.”
To donate to Samantha’s Just Giving page www.justgiving.com/profile/SamanthasEDA where all funds raised go to CARED.