There has been a 300 per cent increase in distressed families calling Eating Disorders Family Australia for help in 2021 so far.
Parents in regional Victoria say there are not enough treatment or prevention services available to them, and some regional GP’s say they aren’t trained to deal with complex eating disorder cases.
However new support programs for school teachers and siblings have been introduced during the pandemic.
Lack of services in Regional Victoria, and across the country.
To mark Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness Week, EDFA’s Christine Naismith, and parent and EDFA member Carrie were asked to take part in a very special podcast on the growing increase in Eating Disorders, and the lack of services in regional areas of Victoria and around the country.
“My daughter was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa five years ago, when she first turned 14. There is very little assistance and support, understanding, and knowledge about this illness, and it is quite stigmatised. We struggle with finding help. There is no-one in my area to help us. I’m on waiting lists, have been on some for years. The pandemic has made everything a lot harder. People don’t even put you on a waiting list anymore, their books are closed.”
“You are caught in the revolving door of hospital, where their weight and body becomes compromised so they have to go into hospital to be cared for medically… but the care isn’t there for them mentally. They’ll get them to a safe place physically and you are discharged. There is no follow up. You are sent home to do it all again.”
“She is currently in hospital, and we are now in the adult system which is scary, and complex. With covid I’m not allowed to go in and see her so it’s very stressful for her.”
What is needed?
“More funding. More awareness, more programs. I feel I’m going round and round in circles and not getting anywhere. My daughter is so kind, beautiful and loving and she deserves life. The impact it has on the entire family… it completely takes over your life. Everything revolves around this illness. You can’t do anything anymore. You can’t go anywhere. You need to be there and there is no way out. We are no further along now than we were five years ago.”
Stigma and lack of training
“A lot of people don’t understand eating disorders. Health workers aren’t equipped to treat people with eating disorders. Regional hospitals don’t have specialised eating disorder wards. There is a protocol that people aren’t very well versed in. They don’t have the staffing, the training, the funding. An eating disorder patient takes up a lot of time. It’s time consuming for the nurses and our hospital system are not equipped to cope with it. Every hospital needs to have a specialised unit. There are so many needing specialised care.”
What would help?
“More access to professionals who are trained in the area. More support for families so they’re not just isolated. It is the most isolating of illnesses. I feel so alone. Friends don’t get it. They move on. I would love access to someone who understands what is happening to my daughter in her mind and be able to help her work through this.”
“If I could give any advice it would be to link up with strive and the amazing support from Eating Disorders Families Australia. They have got me through this. They have been my support and lifeline”.
300% increase in family members reaching out for help and support.
Dr Jenny Conway is a regional GP form Yarra Valley. She specialises in Eating Disorders.
“Unfortunately, being trained in our medical schooling we don’t cover much in the way of Eating Disorder management. Many doctors don’t have experience or knowledge…in regional Victoria and around the country doctors are very busy, often they’re the only clinic in town. With covid clinics and covid testing, time is stretched. I’ve been working in this area for over a decade, and working together with Eating Disorders Victoria and Butterfly to increase the skills of GP’s.
How can people get the help they need?
Christine Naismith, from Eating Disorders Families Australia says “Early intervention is paramount. They are mental illnesses, but do have medical and physical side effects. If you notice there are changes in your child’s behaviour around food and body image, please go to Feed Your Instinct. A lot of people still think it’s a lifestyle choice, or a desire to be thin, they think it’s not serious. It is a deadly mental illness. People don’t understand how serious and how prevalent these eating disorders are.”
Want to listen to another great Podcast?
EDFA’s Christine Naismith and her daughter Ash have been part of this new Butterfly podcast about Teens and body image: Starting at home. For Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness WEek. Listen here