Eating disorders are mental health conditions that are often overlooked due to a misconception a person is choosing not to eat or being picky. In reality, there can be many underlying issues or causes, often rooted in trauma. Misunderstandings about eating disorders mean many don’t seek help. There have been cases of bullying and attacks on social media and ABC (offering a nationwide service) is keen to raise awareness and support people so they always have somewhere to turn. Pictured is Rosie who helps on the ABC support hub.
The Bristol-based woman who nominated ABC as a ‘hidden hero’ told us she had received the “compassionate” help she needed via Skype to help her cope with anxiety during the pandemic.
She wants Healthwatch to highlight the ongoing struggles for people like her where their food anxiety issues could be seriously affected by lockdown and restrictions within supermarkets. Face-to-face support services which helped people cope with eating disorders have been forced to stop due to social distancing.
She added “Coronavirus is very challenging for people with eating disorders. Face-to-face support has stopped, physical health monitoring is reduced – people asked to self-report weight, those with severe eating disorders may have compromised immune systems but are not in the shielding category.”
There can be a wait of 6-12 months to get treatment for an eating disorder on the NHS – and especially with the health pandemic, the person’s health can be deeply affected. Evidence shows early intervention and treatment is critical to a sustained and positive recovery. Anorexia carries the highest mortality rate of all mental health conditions, either from physical health complications such as organ failure or due to suicide.
In 2019, ABC received nearly 6,000 calls to its phone lines and nearly 10,000 emails. They are now receiving 20 per cent more calls since the health pandemic started.
ABC support services include a telephone helpline for individuals, email support and have adapted their face to face Support Hub to an online service offering video call and online chat during Covid-19. More details are here: https://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/help-for-you/covid-19 and here: https://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/help-for-you
The support services for parents/carers, family members etc are here; https://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/family-and-friends (the left hand navigation menu shows information for different people; Dads, siblings etc).
Despite being the first port of call, GPs do not routinely receive training on eating disorders. ABC has worked with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to provide an online training course for GPs and clinical practitioners. See more here https://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/professionals/health.