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 two months.

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 AWP, Bristol.

"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 caring for.

"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 problem."

Currently the Group is available to carers who have someone under the care of STEPs forming part of an overall package of care.

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 further.

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:

  1. Get Active - find out what resources are available. The more you can learn, the more you can help.
  2. Get Help - it's rare that eating disorders cure themselves. Evidence suggests that the sooner someone can access specialist help the better.
  3. Want To Know - make space to talk about what is going on, be open to hearing fears and anxieties.
  4. Value Them - often people feel deeply ashamed by their eating problems; they aren't being silly, attention-seeking or difficult.
  5. 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.
  6. Speak Up - you have a right to say how these things are affecting you - but don't expect them to make someone change.
  7. Be Prepared - eating disorders are complex illnesses and the path to recovery is never smooth.
  8. 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.
  9. Self Care - being a carer can be emotionally exhausting. Take time out to value what you do and give yourself a break.
  10. Be Hopeful - people do overcome their eating disorders! Recovery is a reality however far away it feels at times.

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