Eating disorders and our youngsters
Earlier this year figures released from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) showed the biggest rise in people with eating disorders admitted to hospital is among youngsters aged 10-19. The most common age for girls is 15-years-old and for boys just 13-years-old. Whilst these figures are alarming they only represent inpatient admissions and don’t account for youngsters treated as outpatients. What is the extent of the problem in Merseyside and what help is available for youngsters and parents?
There is a lack of data detailing how many people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder. Although the Department of Health provides hospital statistics, these only include those affected by eating disorders who are in inpatient NHS treatment. These figures leave out all those who have not come forward, have not been diagnosed, are receiving private treatment, or are being treated as an outpatient or in the community. We continue to request that the Department of Health conducts reliable studies to provide us with these vital statistics.
The most accurate figures we are aware of are those from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence. These suggest that 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, of which around 11% are male.
I suffered from anorexia from the age of 12, and I strongly believe that schools in Merseyside must make students aware what eating disorders are and what support there is available. The earlier an eating disorder is recognised and treated the more chance that individual has of recovery. I also believe if more people are able to recognise that they or someone else has an eating disorder and access help and support, then this will make a change in the rising figures meaning a change in funding for research. If you are worried about a friend or yourself, make an appointment with your GP. In Merseyside there is a self help and support group called Talking Eating Disorders which is part of the Beat Network.
Supporting someone with an eating disorder can be very difficult for families and carers. We offer eight-week evening support and training groups so you can speak to someone going through similar experiences. www.youngminds.org.uk is a helpful website too. By the end of the year, we will have set up a service that supports young people at an even earlier age – from 0 to 18 years. We accept referrals to our specialist eating disorder service for male and female young people aged 14 to 18 – as well as adults aged 18-plus – from GPs, other healthcare professionals and schools. Amongst the staff at our base at Knowsley Resource and Recovery Centre at Whiston Hospital we include: clinical psychologists; a consultant psychiatrist for medical reviews; dieticians and occupational therapists, and our family therapist who creates a safe place for you to talk together as a family.
Following the appalling revelations around the death of a four-year-old boy from Coventry, the need for eating disorder awareness in our schools has become more prolific. No longer should teachers be fooled into ‘not’ taking appropriate action because a child has an alleged eating disorder. Safeguarding children at school is a key function for teachers. Schools are legally bound to have safeguarding policies and whilst it is common for schools to have specific policies about mobile phones, very few have a specific eating disorder policy. Considering the rise in the number of children and young people being diagnosed with an eating disorder (HSCIC, 2012); the knowledge that eating disorders are complex (sometimes fatal) illnesses, and the role that teachers undertake in promoting the welfare and safety of children in their care (in loco parentis), specific eating disorder policies would sit appropriately with such safeguarding responsibilities, ensuring early intervention for pupils and students at risk of an eating disorder.
Eating Disorders are complex psychological conditions. Recovery is possible, but can take years, and relapses are common. Early intervention is vital, as we know that people have a better chance of recovery if they get the right specialist help at the right time.
If you want to know more about young people and eating disorders Talking Eating Disorders (TEDS) are holding a conference on Tuesday 20 May 2014 at St George’s Hall, Liverpool. The conference promises to help explode the myths and provide practical empowering solutions for anyone interested in knowing more about the disease.
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tedsuk.com
DVD How to Care for Someone with an Eating Disorder The New Maudsley Method from the SUCCEED Foundation
Skills-based Learning for Caring for a loved one with an Eating Disorder