National Carers’ Conference

Alison Lynch, one of our volunteers, represented NEEDS(Scotland) at the National Carer’s Conference in London in November 2015. We are very grateful of all donations to our charity which allowed us to fund this. Alison very kindly wrote this report on the presentations which is very informative and inspiring, stressing the importance of hope and working together when challenging these illnesses. 

On Friday 27th November 2015, I attended the National Carers’ Conference in Eating Disorders at King’s College London. This turned out to be a very interesting and informative day, highlighting some new ways of providing treatment and support to both sufferers and Carers. I also enjoyed meeting Carers from other parts of the UK and hearing their stories.

The event opened with the Keynote Speakers Dr Hind Al-Khairulla & Dr Amy Harrison from Ellern Mede Service (Inpatient CAMHS) giving us an overview of current strategies and treatment. Dr Hind said they constantly strive to “PROMOTE A POSITIVE MOTIVATIONAL STATE”. Keeping belief alive is crucial “Unless you believe you are unlikely to achieve”. Their aim is to provide HOPE ………” I BELIEVE I CAN AND SO I WILL”

Eating disorders thrive on draining hope. Dr Hind told us that her team and the Sufferer’s Carer need to carry the HOPE for the patient until they can carry it for themselves. The team frequently encounter Carers who have ‘drained themselves’. At that point they stop caring for themselves and are consequently unable to care for their loved one suffering fm an ED. Dr Hind stressed that no matter how bad, how far progressed ED has become – “THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE”.
She talked about a case where a Mum had been caring for her young daughter with an ED. When the young girl became very seriously ill she had to be admitted to Ellern Mede. The Mum described her relationship with her daughter as ‘An unbreakable bond’ although when ED took a firm hold she could not reach her daughter as she had before. Ellern Mede reinforced their message that there is always HOPE. Mum started to write letters to her daughter in the HOPE she would get a reply ……..and eventually she did.

Dr Jennifer Danby & Wendy Whitaker discussed benefits of
“Emotion Focused Therapy with Families in the Treatment of EDs”
Carer is shown how to become a
Behaviour & Emotional Coach and is supported to help feel empowered to
Heal Wounds
This therapy offers Family & Emotion Focused, Parent Empowered skills training.

A parent spoke of her own experience, saying that her daughter would listen to
“Her old friend the ‘reliable anorexic voice’ so that they felt disempowered to reach her”
“We felt like we had lost our daughter and we could only see an illness –
Emotional Coaching has been successful in helping to get her back”
Information on Emotional Coaching can be found here –
[email protected]

There was a very interesting presentation from Rosie Tressler entitled “Student Minds”.
This discussed “Looking after your mates” by pairing a youngster seeking support with a Psychology Student as a support and Mentor at Uni. The students follow the New Maudsley Method. Leaving school and potentially leaving home to go to Uni can be a traumatic time for any youngsters, let alone one who suffers from an Eating Disorder. Support can be provided to assist with the potentially difficult transition from CAMHS to AMHS. The typical problems they have come across when supporting youngsters are
Fear of being judged
Finding confidence to talk about ED
Fear that any mental health problems will be seen as a weakness

The students can offer support via Instant Chat Sessions which are Smart Phone friendly. This can be arranged once per week on a one-to-one basis with a recovered sufferer for people currently receiving Outpatient treatment.

“Student Minds” University Support website is
Dr David Veale, Consultant Psychiatrist at The Priory Clinic spoke about
“Obsessional Compulsive Disorder & Body Dysmorphic Disorder”

There is a well-documented link between OCD behaviours and EDs. The relentless rigid behaviours and strive for perfectionism can be crippling for Sufferers and Carers. Dr Veale encouraged us to read Howard Hughes’ Autobiography “The Aviator” which depicts the life and struggles of the eccentric and reclusive aviator/director whose OCD behaviour became very life-restricting.

Dr Janet Treasure gave an excellent talk. She spoke about CASIS/ECHO projects.
ECHO is Expert Carers Helping Others (A Carers Support Network)
Content has been provided by Carers/Ex patients. DVDs/Book/10 Coaching Sessions have been put together. This support has potential to mean less medical intervention and less inpatient treatment for sufferers.

Dr Treasure told us the ED illicits NEGATIVE EMOTIONS from the Carer, which feeds the Anorexic Bully. Families need to present a united front to tackle ED. if individual family members are divided then this allows ED to thrive.

To sum up Dr Treasure gave us this message from a Sufferer…….
” An Eating Disorder in one word ‘ISOLATION’ ED becomes your only friend”