Eating Disorder Association denounces DHB’s “ dangerous ” attitude towards treatment
Disclaimer: Some people may find aspects of this story scary.
The Eating Disorder Association is furious at comments from a mental health expert who says patients sometimes adjust to their disorder over time, calling it “dangerous.”
Canterbury District Health Board chief mental health officer Greg Hamilton told RNZ in April that people with eating disorders “sometimes adjust to it over time” and are referred if intensive treatment does not suit them.
Eating Disorders Association (EDANZ) President Nicki Wilson had something to say about it.
“Garbage! We don’t do this with any other disease.”
Treatment has evolved a lot in recent years, and the public system can’t just put people in too difficult a basket, she said.
“Considering it is something that people adjust to and learn to live with is very outdated and frankly, a dangerous thought. Recovery is possible at any age and at any stage.”
The Canterbury District Health Board declined to comment further.
Since that story, more and more people with severe anorexia have come forward to say they cannot access treatment in other parts of the country.
Megan Horsham, wife of Wairarapa, has not been in public care for anorexia since 2014, despite multiple referrals since then.
The 34-year-old is undergoing life-saving intervention by private specialists and her parents for severe anorexia that began after a sexual assault at the age of 18.
She deteriorated quickly, to the point of running out of fluids.
Horsham said the last time she called the Central Region Eating Disorders Service, no one called her back.
She was forced to move out of her home to live with her parents, to make sure she eats.
“Before I got home, I didn’t want to live. I think for the first time I really thought I understood why [suicide] come. You are so stuck and so sick, but you feel like there is nowhere to go. “
A 2019 study published in BMC Medicine, out of 36,000 people in the United States with a history of eating disorders, found that 25% had attempted suicide.
Wilson said, tragically, that this story is becoming more and more common.
Calls to the EDANZ helpline have more than doubled in the past 18 months.
“I think we probably need three times the current resources to be able to adequately meet the demand. There are a large number of people who are getting very sick in New Zealand and they are not receiving for it. when the care and treatment they need and deserve.
“We hear about many families whose loved ones have been released from treatment and, although medically stable, are still very ill, without treatment for weeks or even months.”
Dr Cushla McKinney, who lives in Dunedin, had several hospital admissions in New Zealand in her 20s and specialists told her she would never recover.
At the age of 28, she enrolled in the Johns Hopkins Eating Disorders program in Baltimore, USA under a mandatory treatment order.
McKinney spent more than a decade before this admission critically ill with anorexia.
“My liver was failing, I was about to be psychotic. And I think I probably wouldn’t have lasted more than a week before my body shut down.”
After six months in Baltimore – treatment she funded herself – she started to get better. Now in her 40s, she has a family, a good job, and a hopeful outlook.
She maintains that the public services are too quick to diagnose patients with severe and persistent anorexia – known as SEAN – and write people off as hopeless cases.
“One of the things that worries me about a diagnosis as ‘severe and lasting’ is the idea that people might be denied services because they will be deemed incurable. And that essentially robs you of hope.
“Not only is anorexia a nightmare to face, but the treatment can be emotionally and physically traumatic, especially in the early stages, and managing your way through it requires hope and belief in something better through life. after. Even if a SEAN diagnosis does. does not prevent access to treatment, it may increase the likelihood that the patient will refuse to accept it. “
McKinney said it had taken years of hard work and determination, but she was now living proof that her former doctors were wrong.
“Do not give up hope. Keep on fighting, for there is still light there.”
The 22-year-old Christchurch woman RNZ spoke to last month is in hospital, but she is much stronger, her mother said.
The South Island Eating Disorders Department told the family they wanted to give Susan a bed, but all of her beds are full, she said.
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