Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service launches new eating disorders support program

Carer Peer Support Network mentors Andy, Karen, Lucy, Richard, Gary, Maria, Nicky, Cassandra and Alison with EDP program manager Julie Potts and Carer Peer Support Network Project Officer Kathy Logie.
Carer Peer Support Network mentors Andy, Karen, Lucy, Richard, Gary, Maria, Nicky, Cassandra and Alison with EDP program manager Julie Potts and Carer Peer Support Network Project Officer Kathy Logie.

THE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service’s Eating Disorders Program has announced a new carer support program which will support parents of children with an eating disorder returning home from hospital.

The program’s trainers are parents and carers of children who used to suffer from eating disorders, who combine their personal experience with learned expertise to advise parents and carers dealing with the same situation.

It was developed after a review of the service earlier this year found some parents felt unprepared to manage their children’s distress on discharge from hospital.

Kathy Logie, Peer Support Project Officer is leading the training for the Carer Peer Support Program alongside Richard McAllister, a parent who has had first-hand experience with the Eating Disorders Program.

Ms Logie said the review identified that parents needed more support, in particular support from people who had been through a similar experience.

Participants in the Carer Peer Support Program will receive the specialist knowledge and therapeutic skills to help them care for their child at home.

Trainer Andrew told Western Suburbs Weekly he “wanted to give something back” to the service that had helped his family.

“All of the trainers have lived experience in caring for someone with an eating disorder. I have been through that process. My son was unwell a few years ago and he has recovered now, and I wanted to give something back to the service,” he said.

“I don’t think there has been anything like this program before. Earlier this year a program began training young people who had been through the illness and they are talking to patients directly. We are there for the parents and the carers.”

“There have been support groups; I was part of a father’s group… (Now) they have gotten together a group of people (parents and careers with lived experience) and trained them and the goal is to insert them into situations so they can facilitate help.”

Andrew said that the training is “amazingly powerful”.

“The previous support groups were parents talking to parents, but without training. A lot of parents find it extremely isolating… finding someone who has had similar experiences is a great help,” he said.

Andrew said his family’s own experience had been a long journey.

“It is common for young people (experiencing the illness) to have a peak around 11, 12, 13 years of age and another peak later in life,” he said.

“My son was about 13 when he started to get unwell. We struggled for several months at the beginning, which is quite common for a lot of parents that are waiting to get into the system and get information and help. Recovery was at least two years.

“Fortunately for us that was in 2011 and he is now completely well.”

Following a review of the Eating Disorders Program, several new initiatives were implemented to improve services for patients, including the Carer Peer Support Program.

Inpatient services were expanded to include a seven-days-a week meal program, aimed at encouraging a healthy relationship with food.

Outpatient services now include more intensive parent support, peer mentoring, and a wider range of community outreach, including parent skills training.

The changes made to the Eating Disorders Program aim to increase the number of patients able to access the day treatment program and shorten the length of time spent in hospital.

The specialised statewide Eating Disorders Program provides comprehensive outpatient care, inpatient treatment and day treatment for children and adolescents aged 8 to 16, and is run out of Princess Margaret Hospital.

Most young people recover and do not require further care after finishing their treatment with the program.