THE BLOG

I Was Told I Wasn't Sick Enough to Get Help for My Eating Disorder

24/02/2014 11:38 GMT | Updated 23/04/2014 10:59 BST

I am a campaigner for equality in mental health treatment and as this week is Eating Disorders Awareness week, I felt it only right to draw attention to the challenges in the system at present.

It's an area that I'm particularly passionate about, having continually been denied treatment for my own eating disorder over the past few years, because I wasn't considered ill enough. And the sad reality is that my case is one of many.

In 2012, I decided that due to a number of significant events going on in my life it was time to try and continue treatment again. Despite my initial referral taking place in December 2012, I didn't see anyone till October 2013.

When I did, I was told by the NHS mental health trust that I wasn't ill enough to meet their very strict criteria.

I was already very unwell when I sought help in the first place, in the middle of a stressful period at work, and coming to terms with living on my own for the first time.

I knew I was falling back into a negative pattern, and knew that I needed support, so hearing that I wasn't ill enough only fuelled my battle to spiral further downhill and out of control.

I have suffered with an eating disorder since the age of 10 or 11, suffering with a combination of anorexia nervosa, and episodes of binge eating.

Having previously spent several months as an inpatient when I was just 17, I've been really anxious not to let my eating disorder get that bad again.

Anorexia is often glamorised in the media, portraying the physical aspects of the illness, but the reality is it is a painful, emotional destructive mental illness. I was incredibly unwell at the time and didn't even know myself. I was lucky to have access to private care, through my Dad's medical insurance, but when that ran out I had to use the skills I'd learnt to cope. Although I was better, I never had long enough to recover.

Since then, I have endured significant challenges accessing help on the NHS, being passed from one service to another, lost referrals and even waiting over a year at one point to see a specialist.

Other people would have given up by now, or ended up too ill that they would have been forced back into hospital.

The problem is caused because with mental health issues there is no maximum waiting time in the NHS.

A recent report by the Joint Commissioning Panel on Mental Health, supports the cause for early intervention in eating disorders stating that "There is a critical window for intervention for people with ED. AN does not improve spontaneously and the prognosis for all ED worsens with time. Recovery is less likely if an ED has remained untreated for more than 3-5 years. Early identification and intervention with access to effective stepped care pathways is of paramount importance to improve clinical outcome and increase cost-effectiveness."

Research supports that early intervention is not only more cost beneficial, but also indicates fewer complications, such as organ damage, and risk of osteoporosis, which would in turn help to minimise NHS cost per patient.

1.6 million people in the UK suffer with some form of eating disorder (although the real figure could be significantly higher as they are secretive illnesses).

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, and one of the hardest things is admitting you have one.

Currently the treatment pathway is a one size fits all, with either a lengthy wait for outpatient therapy or a long term admission if a person is critically unwell.

I would like to see a medium term option, which allows for short term admissions where a patient is in a relapse, enabling them to get back on track. The patient may have incurred a crisis in their life, or be going through an extreme period of transition, which has caused behaviours to creep back in to their day to day living. I feel that a short term admission before this point occurs can help bring back stability enabling the patient's outpatient support to continue smoothly, without disrupting their studies/giving up a full time job.

Progress is beginning to be made, as the Government is listening, with all political parties acknowledging the significant problem on their hands that a lack of funding for so long has caused. But, with 1 in 4 people suffering with some form of mental illness in the UK, it is not time for the Government to listen, but time for them to act.

If you have experienced problems accessing treatment for mental health, or know someone who has, why not write to your MP, or visit them during their surgery.

You can also write to Norman Lamb MP, who is responsible for mental health in Government.

I am doing a Skydive in aid of b-eat this summer to celebrate b-eat's 25th anniversary as well as turning 25.

"B-eat have supported me through some of the toughest moments of my life. Their helplines for sufferers and carers are invaluable, with training absolutely essential.

This is just a small part of what they do, so please do give generously."

http://doitforcharity.com/KatP

To find out more on Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014 and B-eat's Sock it to Eating Disorders fundraising campaign visit the b-eat website

http://b-eat.co.uk/support-us/get-involved/eating-disorders-awareness-week