Seeking help for an eating disorder can be daunting. We asked Astrid, a peer worker with our PACE service, to answer a few common questions about how to support a loved one if you are worried about their health.

I think my child may have an eating disorder

The first port of call is to take them to your local/trusted GP – someone they feel comfortable with (Centacare can recommend some names). Don’t accuse/corner your child about the disorder. Find the right time. Make a special time to talk and give them your full attention. Their behaviours are a cry for help – don’t focus on them but on the pain/shame they must be feeling. Get help from their school (counsellor and teachers), find trusted family and friends (you can’t support them alone) and start researching everything you can about EDs. Know that your child is as worried as you are but that help is available. Make sure your whole family is supported during this process.

I feel helpless and don’t know what to do

Early intervention is crucial so building that initial relationship of ‘trust’ with you is vital. Unconditional love and acceptance are what your son/daughter is looking for. Listen to what they say without judgement or solutions but reassure them that you will be standing by them and won’t stop until they’re better. Be the first and strongest advocate on their ‘wellness team’, but let them be part of the solution, not just the problem. See their pain for what it is. Don’t take it personally. Love them more now than you ever have and seek as much knowledge about the illness as you can. Don’t worry about ‘why’ at this early stage. Don’t point fingers or push too hard. Be collaborative. Follow their lead on who they want to tell or not tell. Be as transparent as possible and admit if you don’t know the answers. Don’t show them the fear you may feeling…you have to be their rock now.

I am a mum and I’m scared to talk about my struggles

To the middle aged (or any aged) mother who’s struggling….know you’re not alone. There is still so much stigma around eating disorders and that shame just seems to increase as we age. Talk to your GP, speak to one of the organisations who support people with EDs (Centacare, The Butterfly Foundation, Statewide Eating Disorder Service etc). You will need lots of support and you deserve it. Talk to your GP, husband, best friend. People may not understand it, but if they care for you, they will respect your pain and journey. This is an illness. Don’t feel ashamed as shame is the strongest fuel in maintaining your disorder. Think of who you want to be, how you want to role-model for your children and what you would say to a friend if he/she told you they were ill. You will have to be your strongest advocate but never forget this is an illness, like any other illness. It is not your fault.

Today we mark the second annual World Eating Disorders Action Day. This year’s #WeDoActTogether theme is about making connections to support people to move forward. Eating disorders can be very isolating. Through our PACE service, Centacare provides group support to encourage people living with an eating disorder to find their voice, share their experiences and learn from one another.