ABC supports and is a shoulder to cry on

PUBLISHED: 07:21 16 October 2011

Jane Smith

Jane Smith


THERE are a lot of myths and false truths surrounding the issue of eating disorders which few people truly understand and one Weston mother is leading the campaign to replace condescension with concern.

‘I know what it feels like personally to feel so isolated’ – the words of Jane Smith, who struggled to cope when two of her daughters were diagnosed with eating problems.

Desperate for help, Jane turned to the Anorexia Bulimia Care (ABC) befriending service for advice, support and a shoulder to cry on. She said ABC is one of only two national organisations designed to help.

Illnesses such as bulimia and anorexia are regularly labelled as issues that only crop up amongst people who eat too much or those who are not fed well enough by their parents.

The common portrayal of John Prescott as a bulimia sufferer simply because of the amount he eats shows the negative perception clearly. Whether it is the word ‘disorder’ that leads people to assume a sense of self-infliction it is hard to tell.

An estimated 1.1 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder of some kind, with young people aged 14-25, the most affected.

Bulimia is the more common of the two illnesses although both it and anorexia are 10 times as likely to occur in women as men.

Nearly a decade on from her own family problems, Jane has moved to Wedmore from Hertfordshire and has since become a director for ABC.

And she has now been shortlisted for to win a £10,000 grant from the Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund to help ABC grow and become a support network for thousands of parents going through what she did.

The group currently has 50 volunteers who support more than 100 sufferers but the money would be used to extend its small parent befriending service.

She said: “ABC helped me back then and I just wanted to give something back and began volunteering and then set up the parent helpline back in 2004. It’s a service that people obviously need.

“I have seen my daughters make great recoveries. It was ABC that I went to for the best help when I was going through it eight or nine years ago.”

And she hopes that winning the grant will not only help extend the number of services she can offer but also dispel myths about eating disorders.

She said few people know the truth about anorexia and bulimia and wanted to challenge public perception that it is something you can grow out of overnight.

She said: “They are life-threatening [illnesses]. They claim more deaths among under-18s than any psychiatric illnesses.”

Jane is one of six women nationwide competing for the grant and a final decision will be made in December. Judges include TV presenter Claudia Winkleman and Apprentice aide Karen Brady.

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