15 February 2012
Mental health trust launches unique service for carers of people with eating disorders
The Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP)
has launched a new service for carers of people with eating
disorders, in the form of on-going group sessions that meet every
Supporting people with eating disorders is the theme of this
year's Eating Disorders Awareness Week, organised by the national
charity BEAT (beating eating disorders), which runs from Monday 20
to Sunday 26 of February 2012.
"The sessions are a new and exciting approach to helping
carers," says Adam Deuchars, Day Therapy Co-ordinator at the
Specialist Eating Disorder Service (STEPs) in Southmead Hospital
"They were set up by Bobby Orchard, our Specialist Occupational
Therapist, to be part-educational and part-supportive; the aim is
to give carers more information on eating disorders and on how
people are affected by them in a range of ways. Alongside this is
the chance to meet other carers who are in a similar position. The
sense of people not being on their own with these difficulties is
proving essential," he adds.
"Previously, the STEPs Unit only offered one-to-one sessions for
carers, but by providing on-going group support we are able to
offer a more all-round approach to dealing with eating disorders
and are better able to support carers, and in turn those they are
"More and more research is being conducted which suggests that
change in the family or social environment is a vital part of
helping someone overcome their eating problems. We know through
experience that an eating disorder does not just affect the
sufferer but those connected to them too. Our view is that carers,
families and friends, are part of the solution rather than the
Currently the Group is available to carers who have someone
under the care of STEPs forming part of an overall package of
The sessions take place every two months at the STEPs Unit,
Southmead Hospital. If someone wishes to attend they need to book a
place on the group by ringing STEPs on (0117) 323 6113. This is
also the number to ring if they wish to discuss the group
Specialist Eating Disorder Service (STEPs)
The STEPs team was formed in 1999 in response to an increasing
demand for specialised treatment for eating disorders. The team has
a wide skill mix, including medical, psychological, dietetic,
physiotherapy, occupational therapy, art psychotherapy and nursing.
The unit has 6 impatient beds for clients who require high levels
of input in challenging their eating disorder. Clients on the ward
are able to take part in a range of individual and young work
whilst working on restoring weight and behavioural change.
The STEPs Unit has put together a ten-point list of how
to support someone with an eating disorder:
- Get Active - find out what resources are
available. The more you can learn, the more you can help.
- Get Help - it's rare that eating disorders
cure themselves. Evidence suggests that the sooner someone can
access specialist help the better.
- Want To Know - make space to talk about what
is going on, be open to hearing fears and anxieties.
- Value Them - often people feel deeply ashamed
by their eating problems; they aren't being silly,
attention-seeking or difficult.
- Get Alongside Them - it will be difficult, but
try to see where the other person is coming from, so they are not
on their own.
- Speak Up - you have a right to say how these
things are affecting you - but don't expect them to make someone
- Be Prepared - eating disorders are complex
illnesses and the path to recovery is never smooth.
- It's Down To Them - carers can't make someone
want to get better. Ultimately it has to be down to the individual
concerned to make that choice.
- Self Care - being a carer can be emotionally
exhausting. Take time out to value what you do and give yourself a
- Be Hopeful - people do overcome their eating
disorders! Recovery is a reality however far away it feels at