Bronagh Wishart is the winner of prestigious Priory Group national literary award

The Priory Group’s national literary award, The Ryan McKay Prize has been won by 17-year-old Bronagh Wishart, from Kilmarnock.

In her essay, ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’, the teenager has written poignantly about her own eating disorder, taking the reader on a harrowing journey through her personal battlefield. 

Bronagh writes: “The road to reach the goal of ‘perfection’ is an unachievable road to failure. No one is ever perfect, and nobody ever will be, because there is no such thing. Though it doesn’t stop some of us trying.”

The Ryan McKay prize encourages young people to write a non-fiction essay highlighting mental and physical health issues among young people and in particular eating disorders.

It is awarded each year to a young person aged between 13 and 18 who submits the best non-fiction composition on a set topic related to mental and physical health.

Ryan McKay was successfully treated at the Priory Hospital Glasgow for an eating disorder but tragically died in a car accident in August 2007.   His parents, who live in Buckie a small town between Aberdeen and Inverness, decided to honour his memory by working with the Priory Group to raise awareness of positive mental and physical health among young people, who are most at risk of eating disorders.

Graeme Weymes, Hospital Director, said: “This is such a moving piece of writing and one which will strike a chord with every teenager and indeed with every parent who reads it.

He added: “Bronagh’s essay is superb. Its message of human perseverance and ultimately of hope, is one which many readers will find uplifting and inspiring.

Robert McKay, Ryan’s father, said: “The Ryan McKay prize is a very fitting way to remember our son, Ryan. Each year we hope that the writing will help those young people with eating disorders who read other people’s experience.

Bronagh’s writing is very moving and will, I am sure, inspire people to be as strong as she is. It is indeed a long road to recovery. We thank Bronagh for her effort to write this wonderful piece of work, and we wish her well.”

Bronagh wrote: “The four walls seemed to be moving in on me slowly, watching. The continuous clinical beep from the heart machine penetrated the silence like a constant reminder I chose to ignore.  I incredulously observed the number on the screen as it fluctuated from 32 to 34 to 32 to 30… to 28 to 26. That’s when the alarm sounded.”

Bronagh said she was suffering from Anorexia Nervosa, describing eating disorders as “cunning diseases”.

She wrote: “They creep up on you. They make you think that starving and purging are the answers to your problems…”

And she continued: “I could feel myself slipping away into this whole new isolated personality. It is like living on a sinking ship, continually bailing out water, refusing to leave even as help arrives and the water level continues to rise. You still think you can save your sinking boat on your own though you cannot see the shore.”   She ends her story with a message of hope, that she has survived her ordeals.  “I look back over the landscape I have travelled and battled through and realise how much progress I have made since I began my recovery. I am not there yet, but I will be.”

Priory specialist units treat all stages of eating disorders, including patients who are severely underweight and who might need specialist feeding. Priory consultants and therapists have provided thousands of eating disordered patients with the insight and courage they need to change, to maintain healthy bodies and relationships with food and to lead positive, fulfilled lives.

The Priory Hospital Glasgow is committed to delivering the highest standards of care and to making patients stay as beneficial and as comfortable as possible. The hospital has nearly 20 years’ experience of caring for patients with a wide range of mental health issues including but not limited to, stress, depression, anxiety, all forms of addictions especially drug and alcohol addiction and all forms of eating disorders including anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

It has an experienced and qualified team includes consultant psychiatrists, CBT therapists, person centered therapists, dieticians and specialist nurses.

The hospital also has its own ward doctors who are on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that patients always safe and receiving the most clinically appropriate care.