Acton: Charlotte Cobbald’s parents’ plea for better awareness of anorexia in wake of 17-year-old’s death

Charlotte Cobbald

Charlotte Cobbald - Credit: Archant

The parents of a Suffolk teenager who died last month following a long battle with anorexia and depression have told of their determination to raise awareness of the illness, which claims hundreds of young lives every year.

Charlotte Cobbald with her champion Texel shearling ewe in 2012

Charlotte Cobbald with her champion Texel shearling ewe in 2012 - Credit: Duncan Brodie

Charlotte Cobbald, 17, passed away on August 4 after collapsing at the family farm in Acton, near Sudbury.

The former Ipswich High School for Girls student, who received top grades across the board in her GCSEs and demonstrated a huge talent for sheep farming, had previously spent six months in The St Aubyn Centre in Colchester receiving treatment for anorexia.

Her parents Stephen Cobbald, a former Suffolk Show president, and Hilde Cobbald are now on a mission to get the disease moved up the healthcare agenda, both at national and local level.

Mr Cobbald said: “Anorexia is a dreadful illness that kills hundreds of teenagers every year and yet so little is known or understood about it.

“Until Charlotte developed the eating disorder, we didn’t understand it either. Most people’s understanding of anorexia it is that it’s a dietary related problem of teenage girls who think they are fat – but nothing could be further from the truth.

“In 2012/13, cases of anorexia increased in Suffolk by around 20% making it one of the fastest growing diseases, and yet only 1% of the country’s healthcare budget is spent on mental illness.

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“It’s too late for Charlotte now, but Hilde and I are determined to do something to raise awareness. We want something to be done at top level and that’s why we have arranged a meeting with the Health Minister Norman Lamb in October. If we can save just one person, then it will be worthwhile.”

Via a memorial fund, more than £1,000 has already been donated to The St Aubyn Centre in Charlotte’s name. The Cobbalds hope to start a campaign to raise enough money to pay for a minibus to enable young people at the unit – one of the only specialist centres of its kind in the south of England – to get out together and enjoy a “better quality of life”.

Mr Cobbald continued: “We are hoping that with a push we can generate even more funds for teenagers trapped within this dreadful disease.”

In addition, Charlotte’s parents want to continue the work their daughter started in the farming. The popular teenager bred prize-winning Texel sheep and had a small flock.

The Suffolk Young Farmers Club hopes to hold an annual training day in livestock handling and judging with a competition at their annual rally, and her family would like to do something for young people at the Suffolk show, financed by Charlotte’s Trust.

Mr Cobbald added: “More than 500 people attended the memorial service held for Charlotte – she was a special person who touched the hearts of so many.

“Charlotte had a special talent for, and love of, sheep dog trialling and was a member of the East Anglian Sheepdog Club.

“Charlotte has already given a flock of 25 sheep posthumously to Otley College – the Charlotte Cobbald flock – to raise awareness of the opportunities there are in farming for young people. Hilde and I would like to encourage and nurture the talents of other young people in the area and nationally if there’s an opportunity.”

Charlotte’s mother added: “Charlotte is missed terribly by not only her family, but also by so many people she knew and met. We feel it is so important that she continues to make a difference as she hoped to in life.”

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