Headspace chief executive Jason Trethowan has voiced concerns a new Netflix movie about anorexia could trigger at-risk young people.
Together with mental health organisations across Australia, he has issued a warning to parents, teachers and young people ahead of the release of To the Bone.
The movie, described as “part drama, part dark comedy” and released in the US on July 14, details a young woman’s experience with an eating disorder
However the release of the trailer in June sparked intense debate about whether the film glamorises anorexia or could trigger vulnerable youth.
Netflix sparked a similar reaction with its series 13 Reasons Why, which was centred around teenage suicide.
Mr Trethowan said the trailer for To the Bone depicted “confronting images” of character Ellen’s (Lilly Collins) experience with the illness.
“The concern is about the portrayal of behaviours associated with an eating disorder – and whether this may be providing a ‘how-to’ guide for adolescents who may be at risk,” he stated in a letter to the editor.
“Eating disorders are a serious mental illness with long-term physical and psychological impacts.
“We need to be having the right conversations about the problem and we need to able to show parents, schools and young people where they can look to make this happen.”
Albury-Wodonga headspace manager Karina Kerr said eating disorders were an emerging area of concern on the Border.
“It’s an issue that has been brought to our attention by schools and young people,” Ms Kerr said.
“Pre-dominantly it’s (a problem for) girls between the age of 12 and 14 but we are also seeing young men between 18 and 22 years experiencing self-esteem issues around body image.”
As part of its response, Albury-Wodonga headspace has secured a team from The Butterfly Foundation to deliver a series of programs in October.
There will be sessions for young people and parents as well as professional development for teachers and affiliated health staff.
While she has yet to see any fallout from the Netflix movie, Ms Kerr said it highlighted a vital point.
“You can’t raise an issue without raising how to get help,” she said.
“If we are going to talk about these significant issues or graphic images that can affect a young person’s mental health, that conversation must also include a discussion of where they can go to get help and support.”