Patients with eating disorders will receive better access to lifesaving treatment and support, in a $3 million funding boost announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt.
About 1 million Australians are suffering from an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating, but only a quarter of them are currently in treatment.
“People with eating disorders are a hidden part of the great mental health challenge and we need to bring them into the light,” Mr Hunt told the ABC.
The Government will give $1.7 million to the Butterfly Foundation’s national helpline, ED HOPE, so it can offer an extra three hours of counselling services every day.
“1800 ED HOPE provides evidence-based, free support and counselling regardless of location, circumstances or lived experience,” the Butterfly Foundation’s chief executive Christine Morgan said.
The Butterfly Foundation will also receive an additional $1.2 million to fund a training program for healthcare workers like GPs and nurses to identify the signs that their patient may have an eating disorder.
Mr Hunt said the Medicare review committee is also currently looking at comprehensive, specific coverage for eating disorder patients.
“The deep, agonising challenge that these people face means that there needs to be something special to support them,” he said.
Mr Hunt said he has watched a close friend struggle with an eating disorder.
“There are people who are very close to me who have been through some of the great eating disorder challenges. What really strikes me is that it takes not just weeks, not just months, but sometimes many years to recover,” he said.
Family touched by anorexia welcomes funding
Alan and Barbara Bagnall lost their daughter Kate late last year after a 30-year battle with anorexia.
“She was very creative, very energetic, keen on athletics. At the age of five, she pleaded with us to let her go on overnight bush walks,” Mr Bagnall remembered.
But at 15, Kate developed an eating disorder and the Bagnalls couldn’t find decent treatment for her in the Canberra area.
“When her weight got [dangerously low], she would go into hospital and be drip-fed until she gained about 12 kilos,” Mr Bagnall said.
“Then she’d come home and stay with us for about six months. Then she’d go back to her own home and her weight would slowly go back down again and we’d take her back to hospital.”
The cycle continued for nearly 30 years, but the hospital system focused on Kate’s weight gain rather than her psychological needs.
Last year, she fainted in the bathroom and hit her head.
Kate never regained consciousness.
Her parents have dedicated their lives to raising awareness about eating disorders, and they’re thrilled the Government has announced extra funding for the Butterfly Foundation.
“It’s marvellous. It’s just so rewarding. If this extra money can save just one life, it will have been worth it,” Ms Bagnall said.
This peice was first seen on ‘ABC News’ 19 September 2017.