SEDIG Carers’ Conference

The Scottish Eating Disorders Interest Group (SEDIG) held their annual Carers’ Conference in The Eric Liddell Centre, Edinburgh on Saturday 4th March. The event, which usually takes place at the end of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, was hosted by Fiona Duffy who has recently become SEDIG’s chairperson, and featured some excellent speakers on a variety of topics. Fiona highlighted that Ben McPherson, MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith had raised a motion in the Scottish Parliament to note and appreciate the theme of EDAW 2017, which focussed on early intervention and raising awareness of these serious mental illnesses.

Kathleen Taylor, Engagement and Participation Officer with the  Mental Welfare Commission gave the first interesting and illuminating presentation on her role within the MWC and her own personal experience as a carer. She highlighted the importance of The Triangle of Care, rolled out in Scotland several years ago which aims for better collaboration and partnership with carers in their journey through the mental health services, and also acknowledgment that carers need care too. Amongst other topics covered were The Mental Health Act and the issue of confidentiality. She stressed that carers can request a meeting with the professionals treating their loved one. If refused they should,

  • put the request in writing
  • repeat if necessary, and copy in the Mental Welfare Commission.

There is an information and advice line (call back service) at 0800 389 6809

She also spoke about an Advance Statement. These can be useful but need to be completed by the service user when they are well. They may be useful as the brain can become impaired if food intake has been restricted for some time.

Sara Preston, Senior Young Person’s Officer (Scotland) for B-eat then gave a very interesting presentation about her Winston Churchill Foundation Fellowship Research trip to the US and Canada. The focus was on

  • Children and Young Persons’ treatment models
  • Education
  • Stigma
  • Raising Awareness

Sara travelled extensively across the US and Canada meeting with individuals from many different organisations supporting those affected by eating disorders and their families. My own personal favourite and dream for Scotland, was Sheena’s Place, which is a large house where a variety of different support is available such as

  • Art and Craft
  • Emotional Control
  • Bereavement
  • Dads
  • Sufferers
  • Siblings

Eating disorders sufferers, their friends and families can feel very isolated and alone, and this concept provides a safe environment in which to access help and support.

Sara concluded her presentation by reading out a very moving poem which she had written.

Finally, Gill Todd, Clinical Trainer and Supervisor in Eating Disorders talked about Collaborative Skills-based Learning for Carers. She also highlighted the importance of The Triangle of Care, and discussed helpful and unhelpful beliefs about eating disorders.  One concept which is often neglected by both the carer and the sufferer, is the need to learn compassion for themselves. This was a very interactive session, which continued into the afternoon, working  in different groups with plenty of opportunities for input from conference delegates.

Gill stressed the need to remain calm and try to step back from high anxiety/confrontational situations. Eating disorders thrive in these environments, so they are to be avoided as much as possible. She also stressed the aim to support the sufferer to build new “train tracks” in the brain of coping mechanisms, to replace those the eating disorder has put in place and begin the process of change. We looked at the stages involved in making that change and did some exercises to illustrate how Motivational Training could help. The idea is to make goals realistic and timely. Little steps make big strides!

Many thanks to the SEDIG Committee for their organisation and provision of a great venue and delicious lunch. SEDIG now have a Facebook page and also a Twitter account.

I highly recommend going along to SEDIG Carers’ Conferences as they are informative, but also gives carers a chance to network and share their experiences with others going through similar challenging times.