Eating disorders: Beat report finds lack of support for families

Just 12% of families affected by eating disorders are getting the help they need, a report today by national eating disorders charity Beat finds.

The research, based on a survey of over 500 families in the UK, was published to kick start Eating Disorders Awareness Week and a year-long inquiry into eating disorders in the UK by the charity.

Nice guidelines ignored

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance published in 2004 says families should normally be included in the treatment of eating disorders among children and adolescents, through information sharing and advice on behavioural management. However, 82% of those surveyed said they were not offered any literature or information from their GP after the illness was diagnosed. The report also found 35% said they felt actively excluded when their loved-one was taken into hospital.

Almost 80% of respondents said they suffered lasting damage as a result of the disorder and 11% experienced a relationship break up under pressure from the illness. Despite the fact that many family members had to take time off work or give up their jobs to look after the sufferer, only 8% of families surveyed had been given any information about carers’ assessments.

Families ‘isolated from sufferers’

“The system is isolating sufferers from their families with devastating effects,” said Emma Healey, director of operations at Beat. She added: “Over the next year we will be holding the government accountable for providing a more holistic approach.”

According to Beat, these problems are caused at least in part by a lack of resources. Parts of the UK – including the whole of Wales – still have no specialist eating disorder facilities and families have to travel long distances to see loved-ones receiving in-patient treatment.

Healey added: “We have to challenge the idea that eating disorders are simply diets gone wrong. They are serious mental health conditions and family involvement is essential if we want to overcome them.”

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