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Early intervention is essential to recovery for people with eating disorder

Photo: Mayday to stop eating disorder deaths
The Butterfly Foundation says the health system is failing families of loved ones with an eating disorder.

A mayday has been sent to the Australian government to help stop the unacceptable number of young Australians losing their lives as a result of an eating disorder.

Suicide is up to 31 times more likely for people with an eating disorder and many die an "agonising death" because of medical complications.

David Murray AO chief executive officer of the Butterfly Foundation - Australia's leading organisation for eating disorder - says this is an "intolerable" situation.

"Too many times in the past twelve months Butterfly staff have sat vigil with families as the health system has failed," he said.
"When suicide is up to 31 times more likely to occur for someone with an eating disorder, clearly the government should address this problem with a dedicated focus."

Unfortunately, he says, too many families have been able to identify key failures of Australia's health system as contributing factors to the death of a loved one.

The most common issue for families was the failure to recognise their valuable insight into the illness, and to provide support as they struggled with their own exhaustion levels.

According to modelling by Deloitte, commissioned by the Butterfly Foundation, the number of Australians with an eating disorder rose by another 50,000 over the past 12 months.

"While we all wait on the federal government's drawn-out mental health reform process, the ultimate cost of an eating disorder is being felt by too many families," Mr Murray said.

An estimated one in 20 Australians has an eating disorder, a complex neuropsychiatric illness associated with significant physical complications and increased mortality.

Early intervention is essential to recovery, Mr Murray says.

"Failure to provide treatment when it is needed, early in illness makes it harder to treat. The severity of someone's eating disorder is directly related to the serious and ongoing levels of physical health and psychological harm, and the higher the risk of suicide," he said.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced that eating disorders will be included in the 5th Mental Health Plan.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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