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Suffolk woman's 20-year anorexia battle inspires new 'kindness in a box' service

PUBLISHED: 08:15 15 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:13 15 May 2019

Debbie Watson is launching Wednesday’s Child to help those struggling with mental health. Photo: Warren Page.

Debbie Watson is launching Wednesday's Child to help those struggling with mental health. Photo: Warren Page.

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When it comes to mental health, Debbie Watson knows there is no simple fix.

Debbie Watson is launching Wednesday’s Child to help those struggling with mental health. Photo: Warren Page.Debbie Watson is launching Wednesday’s Child to help those struggling with mental health. Photo: Warren Page.

Having battled anorexia for 20 years, she is aware of the complex and debilitating mental battles millions of people across the country face each day.

And now, the 41-year-old from Woodbridge is launching Wednesday's Child - a social enterprise which allows those concerned about friends and family going through mental health struggles to send a carefully curated gift box.

For Ms Watson the boxes are merely a gateway into a community of other services, events and coaching activities specifically designed to acknowledge the troubling world of eating disorders.

Debbie Watson is launching Wednesday’s Child to help those struggling with mental health. Photo: Warren Page.Debbie Watson is launching Wednesday’s Child to help those struggling with mental health. Photo: Warren Page.

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"When you know someone with a mental health issue like anorexia nervosa, it's natural that you might want to be able to show you care", she said. "But I've seen for myself how anxious friends and family become about what is appropriate by way of a kindness gesture.

"Wednesday's Child's boxes aren't about an automatic fix but they are about showing empathy and reminding an individual of their worth.

Dr Lucy Henshall says Wednesday’s Child gift boxes could be a potential game-changer. Photo: Warren Page.Dr Lucy Henshall says Wednesday’s Child gift boxes could be a potential game-changer. Photo: Warren Page.

"I truly believe, from personal experience, that eating disorders require the 'it takes a village' approach, whereby there's multiple people and functions helping one person to recover.

"The current system needs more. It has to change.

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"Time and again we hear that mental health services are under strain, beds are in short supply and that specialist care staff are fewer in number. "It becomes imperative that everyone who cares can, if they so choose, play a role in the support of another."

The Wednesday's Child boxes can be ordered on a subscription basis, or as a one-off gift, and have been carefully considered to provide contents which aim to encourage mindfulness, self-soothing, nourishment and comfort.

The launch of the enterprise coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week - which this year is centred around body image.

Ms Watson has revealed longer term ambitions to grow into a designated daycare and educational centre supporting both individuals with eating disorders and those wishing to gain more awareness.

And as well as delivering the tailored boxes, Wednesday's Child offers a number of other unique services to help those dealing with an eating disorder.

It stages supportive suppers, accompanied shopping, awareness certification, recovery coaching, and a jobs and skills portal aimed at allowing those with a mental health condition to access projects and opportunities which potentially need less formal workplace structures.

The potential to team up with GPs to provide better patient care is also being investigated.

"We are currently exploring ways in which our boxes can be accessed by GPs and specialist eating disorder units as part of a social prescribing feature of patient care," Ms Watson explained.

"It's very common for a person experiencing anorexia, bulimia, or another disordered eating condition, to be told that even at a very low BMI, they may have to wait some 10 weeks for something like cognitive behavioural therapy - and longer still for a bed.

"That makes it terribly distressing for all concerned, because a GP wants to be able to help and support as best they can but often waiting lists are too long and services are too stretched.

"Just the provision of a box encourages that person to enter into the Wednesday's Child community and its Supportive Suppers and other opportunities.

"It's a small way of starting to reverse the decline in a person's wellbeing and state of social isolation."

Dr Lucy Henshall, a Suffolk-based GP, said the venture has the "potential to be a real game-changer for those who battle with eating disorders".

"In my 25-plus years of work as a frontline GP, I always felt there was so little to offer to my patients with emerging eating disorders," she said.

"Wednesday's Child sends 'kindness in a box', but it also provides a whole range of other initiatives, all within a supportive framework and community."

For more information visit wednesdayschild.co.uk or email debbie@wednesdayschild.co.uk

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