Dr Fiona Duffy: Help is at hand for eating disorders

It is stimated that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Picture: Getty
It is stimated that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Picture: Getty
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As we enter Eating Disorder Awareness Week an exciting new website has been developed by NHS Lothian Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) for parents and carers of young people with eating disorders. The website was funded by a Technology Enabled Care Grant from the Scottish Government and is designed to support parents in the first few weeks of diagnosis and treatment.

The eating disorder charity Beat estimates that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder and recent studies have suggested that as many as 25 per cent of people with an eating disorder are male. Eating disorders most commonly start during adolescence, but can also start during childhood or adulthood and includes people with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED). Intervening early in the course of an eating disorder is thought to be associated with better outcomes as the difficulties can be tackled before they become entrenched. The majority of eating disorder care for young people is provided in community clinics using family-based treatment, which views parents and carers as being a major resource and support in their child’s recovery. However, the process of supporting a loved one with an eating disorder can be highly stressful, with parents and carers experiencing higher levels of mental health difficulties and it is recognised that more support is needed.

Dr Fiona Duffy, Clinical Psychologist in CAMHS Eating Disorder Development Team

Dr Fiona Duffy, Clinical Psychologist in CAMHS Eating Disorder Development Team

We know that the first few weeks of treatment can be an overwhelming time for families. By offering practical advice and online resources within this time, alongside evidence-based treatment, we hope to assist parents and carers in quickly getting the right information that they need to help support their child in their recovery from an eating disorder. The website is due to be launched nationally on Wednesday, via www.caredscotland.co.uk. We really hope parents and carers find the site useful.

NHS Lothian CAMHS has also partnered with Beat to provide online peer support for young people under 25 and their families. Volunteers who have recovered from an eating disorder and parents who have cared for a young person who has recovered, are paired up with other young people or families who are currently experiencing these difficulties.

The aim of this is to reduce the sense of isolation that an eating disorder can cause. Parents, carers and young people will be matched with volunteers who will provide encouragement and support via one-three emails per week.

Volunteers have been taking to social media to reflect on why this support would have been helpful to them including “having someone outwith my family to talk to openly”, “asking for help earlier” and “having someone remind me that I deserve to get better”.

If you would like to receive this support, are between 14 and 25 years old, or are a parent of carer of a young person with an eating disorder you can email teced@beateatingdisorders.org.uk for more information.

If you have concerns that you may have an eating disorder make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. You can also use the Beat Helpline: 0808 801 0677 (Adult Helpline) or 0808 801 0711 (Youthline) for support and information, and it can give suggestions about how to approach your doctor.

Dr Fiona Duffy, Clinical Psychologist in CAMHS Eating Disorder Development Team