Eating disorder charity reports spike in helpline calls during lockdown

An eating disorder charity has announced demand for its helpline in the past six months has soared by almost 100 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Beat said 28 per cent of people using the service from May to July cited coronavirus as the possible cause for relapsing or developing symptoms.

Concerns have included not being able to access safe foods or shops, reduced access to treatment, worries around the lifting of lockdown and confusion around new regulations.

Demand for Beat help services from March to August was up by 97 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

Caroline Price, Beat’s director of services, said the past few months have been “devastating” for many people affected by eating disorders.

“They have had to adjust to extreme changes to their treatment arrangements and, for many, a severely reduced support network. Most worryingly, we are hearing from more and more people coming forward for the first time because of coronavirus, either from relapsing or realising they have become unwell.

You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:

Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email jo@samaritans.org, in confidence

Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141

Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to other information on its website

Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit

Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58

“We would like to reassure anyone affected that we are here no matter what stage they are at – from feeling concerned about their health for the first time to coping with new challenges in recovery.”

The charity has increased its service provision to respond to the demand, including coronavirus support group The Sanctuary following a grant from The National Lottery Community Fund.

It is further expanding with a new range of free, UK-wide support services including a telephone advice and coaching service for carers supporting their loved one and extended helpline opening hours.

The move comes after researchers warned that people with eating disorders could be at risk of suffering long-term consequences from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Academics from Northumbria University in Newcastle said the disruption of routines during lockdown, a focus on food and exercise which came to dominate the public conversation, and healthcare moving online could all have lasting effects.

While positive talk about diet and fitness can be an uplift to the majority of people, it is important to recognise these can be “triggering or upsetting” for others, their paper published in the Journal of Eating Disorders said.

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