Denmark: Help for immigrant girls suffering from eating-disorders

Denmark: Help for immigrant girls suffering from eating-disorders

'New Danish' young women also get anorexia and bulimia and starve themselves to death. But the counselors who offer help never hear from those girls, who secretly turn matchstick-thin.

Eating disorders don't affect just teenagers named Mette and Caroline. Girls named Fadma and Aisha also starve themselves and dream of a perfect body.

Mette Fløjborg, counseling coordinator for the National Association of Eating Disorders and Self-Mutilation, says that there's a lot of evidence that New Danish women are at greater risk of developing eating disorders than Danish women.

And yet, New Danes rarely turn to advice centers and helplines, and only New-Danish girls who have already starved themselves almost to death, show up for treatment.

Mette Fløjborg says they get around 25 queries a day, but they almost never hear from immigrants. "We know they have eating disorders, but not how we can help them."

Therefore the Association fro Young New Danish Women (Foreningen for Unge Nydanske Kvinder) started off a new counseling initiative in Cooperation with the National Association of Eating Disorders and Self-Mutilation.

Rbia Afzal (25) is project leaders for counseling for young New Danes which from now on will be available every Wednesday via chat or telephone.

"New Danish girls are expected to be the perfect daughter, the perfect sister, have perfect education, look perfect, find the perfect husband, and at the same time balance between Danish culture and their homeland culture. There are many expectations from all sides, and it's things like that which can give rise to an eating disorder," says Rbia Afzal, who says she knows many immigrant girls who starved themselves.

She certain that counselors of immigrant background will be able to draw out more New-Danish girls, because the girls will have more trust in another New-Dane.

"A Danish counselor won't be able to understand the girl's circumstances as well as a New-Dane. An eating disorder is the same, regardless of whether you're called Anja or Aisha. But the circumstances are very different. Many New-Danish families don't suspect what eating disorders are, and there's a big taboo on mental problems. In the worst case, it can bring shame to the entire family, so for many girls it's very important to hide their problems," says Rbia Afzal.

Source: Berlingske Tidende (Danish)