Significant increase in those needing support for eating disorders during lockdown, survey finds

Nicole Rickard from East Suffolk Council with Wednesday's Child founder Debbie Watson Picture: WEDNESDAY'S CHILD/PAGEPIX

Nicole Rickard from East Suffolk Council with Wednesday's Child founder Debbie Watson Picture: WEDNESDAY'S CHILD/PAGEPIX - Credit: Archant

The number of people with eating disorders in Suffolk needing additional support soared during lockdown according to a local social enterprise.

According to not-for-profit Wednesday’s Child, lockdown saw a significant increase in individuals and families seeking support for eating disorders – with as many as 76% of those suffering from a disorder seeing it worsen.

In the same survey, 54% of respondents said they had seen a reduction in statutory support provision.

The enterprise has been delivering one-to-one support and group assistance via Zoom – but is now upping its support in an attempt to help reach further sufferers and their families through a matched befriending scheme, following a £10,000 grant by East Suffolk Council.

The scheme pairs sufferers and family members with those who have fully recovered or their loved ones, in a bid to help provide an extra layer of support.

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Debbie Watson, founder of Wednesday’s Child, said she is “enormously grateful” for the support following a “perfect storm” during lockdown.

Ms Watson said: “It comes as little surprise to us that the pandemic has created a lot of challenge and distress for those with eating disorders.

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“A perfect storm of isolation, routine change, issues over food access, concerns about income and stability, and a reduction in therapy appointments and regular healthcare access, has really heightened negative mental health behaviours for many.

“While any professional healthcare support is of use in this situation, it is clear that a very ‘specific’ level of empathetic knowledge and guidance around eating disorder recovery can be enormously beneficial.”

The befriending programme will be delivered via phone and video chat, while there will also be in-person opportunities dependant on any changes in government guidelines.

Funds from East Suffolk Council’s “Our Hidden Needs Grant” were initially meant for older people and those with limited resources, but was expanded in June to help reach other vulnerable people in the county.

Letitia Smith, East Suffolk Council’s cabinet member for communities, added: “We are delighted to have been able to support their vital work.”

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