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Last Updated: Monday, 5 February 2007, 00:03 GMT
'Food fear' children need support
eating disorder
Eating disorders are misunderstood
Most young people with an eating disorder say there is no-one they can turn to about their problem.

Only 1% can talk to their parents and 9% can talk to someone at school about their concerns, a poll of 600 suggests.

The charity "beat", formerly the Eating Disorders Association, says today's celebrity-driven culture is putting undue pressure on young people.

Media scrutiny of skinny celebrities and shock weight loss make sufferers feel more isolated, says beat.

It is extremely worrying that so few young people know where to turn to for help
Barbara Herts
Chief executive of YoungMinds

Of the young people surveyed, 92% said there was no one they could turn to about their eating disorder.

And 83% said they would not be able to approach their GP or nurse about their eating disorder.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of beat, said: "In today's celebrity-driven culture, where people are vilified for gaining weight then stigmatised for losing weight, eating disorders are sensationalised and misunderstood.

"This is having a devastating impact on young people suffering from eating disorders who feel increasingly alienated and isolated and lack confidence to ask people for advice and support."

Big problem

At least 1.1 million people in the UK are directly affected by an eating disorder.

Young people between 14 and 25 years of age are at greatest risk.

A fifth become seriously ill and risk premature death.

Barbara Herts, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: "It is extremely worrying that so few young people know where to turn to for help when they are suffering with an eating disorder.

"We know that eating disorders are a physical sign of emotional distress. It is essential that we address the underlying problems that are so often the cause of young people turning to such extreme relationships with food."

She said there was a woeful shortage of psychological therapies available to young people in UK.

Shadow Health Minister, Tim Loughton, said: "As with so many other aspects of mental illness, we need to dispel the stigma attached to eating disorders and ensure that people, in particular young girls, who are crying out for help feel able to seek it.

"The government must ensure that youth workers and other professionals who work with young people have better awareness and training around the issues surrounding eating disorders and the effect of recent media reports about the wave of size '0' models and celebrities.

"School-nurses have a crucial role to play in this area but the Government?s policies have meant they are often too overworked to provide adequate help and support."

Winslet attacks 'size zero' trend
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