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Support for carers of people with eating disorders

Online program aims to boost knowledge, confidence and resources.

Four women standing together
SydneyConnect Image: Anneliese Zanchetta and her family

Anneliese Zanchetta developed an eating disorder at the age of 10.

Two years later, she was hospitalised at The Children's Hospital at Westmead, where she undertook Maudsley family-based therapy, an intensive form of outpatient treatment involving parents and siblings in the recovery process.

"My family is the reason I survived. Eating disorders impact everyone around you. During the height of the illness, I was a tough person to handle," Anneliese, pictured second from the left, said.

"I think my Dad felt it the most. He had to quit his job to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with me. He'd even park outside my school so we could share meals together.

"My parents were very hands-on. We were able to fight the eating disorder together and I am grateful for that," she said.

Anneliese recovered by age 15, but stresses the importance of an ongoing support network.

"Even today my Mum checks in on me. You really need a support network, because it's those people around you who catch you out and normalise healthy eating," she said.

Now, the InsideOut Institute for Eating Disorders, a collaboration between Sydney Local Health District and the University of Sydney, has launched a new online program, SupportEDto ease the burden on carers and improve treatment outcomes.

The programprovides information on available resources and treatment options, plus practical skills, such as how to provide support around mealtimes, strategies for avoiding and responding to conflict and ways for carers to look after their health and wellbeing.

Psychologist, and InsideOut Institute Senior Project Manager, Rachel Simeone said targeted educational and practical skills-based workshops for carers have been noted to reduce carer distress and burden.

"The role of carers can be all-consuming, demanding and unrelenting.

"Carers often experience feelings of isolation, lack of education and support, and their own mental health concerns. But the research tells us specific training programs targeting families and carers have been found to be very effective," she said.

Free, three-month access to the SupportED program is available to people who sign up to participate in an evaluation study of the program.  NSW Health has partnered with InsideOut to ensure free places are provided to all carers in NSW once the study is completed later in the year.

For more information, please visit https://insideoutinstitute.org.au/resource-library/supported