Newsreader Mark Austin Reveals Daughter's Battle With Anorexia

HuffPost UK

A prime time newsreader has told how he feared for his daughter's life after she became "dangerously ill" with anorexia.

Mark Austin said his family had struggled to find the care the teenager needed and she was close to organ failure.

The ITV Evening News presenter revealed the illness struck one of his daughters when she was studying for her A-levels and she entered a "bleak, dark world of depression".

"She was basically shrinking away before our eyes," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

"She was there, but she was gone and it all happened very quickly.

"We thought we were losing her so we tried to get help, but there wasn't really the help there."

Mr Austin said his daughter had needed "quick, significant" intervention, "but we couldn't find it".

"Within a period of four or five months she was very dangerously ill," he said.

The newsreader's daughter dropped to five and a half stone in weight, so the family turned to private health care but "that didn't work".

"It wasn't the kind of care we wanted for her," he told the programme. "There was force-feeding going on. There was all sorts of stuff that was making her even more depressed.

"We pulled her out and basically looked after her ourselves. Had it not been for the fact that my wife is an A&E doctor I'm not sure what would have happened.

"She was getting close to organ failure."

Mr Austin said that the situation became more complicated when his daughter hit 18 because he was no longer able to see her medical notes.

"Things were getting pretty bleak," he said.

The presenter said the NHS offered the best emergency health care in the world for physical problems but warned that help for mental health is underfunded.

"We are heading towards an epidemic in mental health and there are not the resources there to deal with it."

Mr Austin told the programme, a mental health special, that his daughter is now "doing fine".

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has two young daughters, said that any father listening to Mr Austin's interview would be "incredibly worried".

While the Government was investing £1.4 billion in the collaborative assessment and management of suicidality (Cams) over the course of the parliament, he acknowledged that more needed to be done.

"Obviously in Mark's case it is wonderful that his daughter made a full recovery, but I've spoken to a dad whose daughter committed suicide in Cumbria the day after she had a Cams appointment – I'm sure, not the fault of the Cams therapist she was seeing - but we didn't spot the seriousness of the problem and we weren't able to prevent that suicide. So I do think it is an area we need to do a lot better," he told The World at One.

"It is partly about making financial commitment which I believe we are making. It is also about consistency of service because, as Mark Austin and other people have pointed out, it is very patchy."