A BENDIGO mother has urged carers for people with an eating disorder to seek support, as her own daughter recovers from anorexia.
Stacey's daughter has been in recovery for about 12 months, after a long battle with the illness.
The experience has led Stacey to begin a support group for families in the Bendigo area caring for someone with an eating disorder.
It's a situation experts say can be isolating and distressing for carers, who are often parents.
Stacey first realised something was wrong when her daughter returned from her first year of university interstate, about two and a half years ago.
They sought help from a general practitioner, specialist Bendigo teams, and later a psychiatric hospital in Melbourne.
Eighteen months of "full blown" treatment later, Stacey's daughter is now in recovery.
When her daughter's illness was diagnosed, Stacey faced caring for her as she became very sick, very quickly. She had lost a dramatic amount of weight in a month, was over-exercising and had lots of rules around food.
It meant coping with violence and aggression when trying to help her daughter eat.
Stacey gave up work for six months, because her daughter needed monitoring 24-seven.
"It was horrendous, because at the end of the day other than feed her, there was nothing I could do," Stacey said.
"She's a very gentle, kind, empathetic person, but to see her totally consumed by this aggression and violence, and just something that's so harmful to herself, was horrible."
"I don't think I really appreciated how bad it was until we were on the other side of it, to see her well again."
Stacey said she felt isolated from family and friends, who couldn't understand the violence and aggression during meal times.
The experience led her to begin a branch of Eating Disorders Families Australia in Bendigo, after travelling to Melbourne regularly to meet with other parents through the group.
Read more: Tool to help heal eating disorders
Stacey said it was critical families knew they were not alone. She said the group could educate families around communication, caring styles, caring for siblings, how to manage holidays, and the like.
"We're only a phone call away," Stacey said.
"It's very easy to get consumed with the eating disorder and treatments and appointments and all those kinds of things, but you can't care for somebody if you don't care for yourself.
"There's no shame in seeking support for a mental health condition, or when you're supporting someone through a mental health condition. There's always help out there."
InsideOut Institute for Eating Disorders senior project manager, psychologist Rachel Simeone said there was a high cost to the loved ones of people with an eating disorder, as well as those experiencing the illness themselves.
Ms Simeone said people who provided support could be emotionally isolated, distressed and experiencing the burden that comes with being a carer.
She said eating disorders lasted six years on average, with the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
The InsideOut Institute launched an online program on Tuesday, named SupportED, aiming to ease the burden on carers.
Ms Simeone said the program would help people gain knowledge and skills to care for someone with an eating disorder, through five online modules.
She said it aimed to meet the need for practical knowledge among carers.
"We know that people who have eating disorders are not only affected but their loved ones are also affected," Ms Simeone said.
"Support people need support. You can't put other people's needs ahead of your own without doing something to look after yourself."
More information available at: insideoutinstitute.org.au/
The Bendigo Advertiser has chosen not to use Stacey's last name, for her daughter's privacy.
For support, contact:
- Strive Eating Disorders Families Australia Bendigo
- The Butterfly Foundation support line 1800 33 4673, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Eating Disorders Victoria 1300 550 236, email@example.com
- Lifeline - 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au
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