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How can parents help children with eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia?

Parents have been encouraged to learn more about eating disorders so they can spot potential signs in their children. Picture: Thinkstock/PA

Parents have been encouraged to learn more about eating disorders so they can spot potential signs in their children. Picture: Thinkstock/PA

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More parents have been urged to learn how to spot signs of eating disorders in children to help stem rising numbers of young people with "devastating" conditions such as anorexia.

National statistics show that huge numbers of young people not only suffer from eating disorders but die as a result of them, with exam stress and concerns over body image thought to be among multitude of causes.

So now a “HuddlUps” session – part of a regular series of information advice events for parents organised by Huddl and Suffolk Mind – is to be held to alert more parents to the dangers and how to prevent them.

Katie Lawson, organiser of the HuddlUp, said: “For me, eating disorders were part of the reason for starting Huddl.

“When she was nine, my niece had anorexia. For our family, that was our first learning about mental health.

“It was a complete shock, especially in someone so young. We were aware of the devastating effect eating disorders can have.

“We know that when we do our research, it's always up there in the top five for parents in what they want to learn about.”

Of the potential causes, Mrs Lawson said: “I think there are many pressures and they are far-reaching, from academic pressure to the way they look and wanting to look like their friends.”

And she highlighted that while many people perceive more girls to be affected by eating disorders, it affects boys as well.

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Yet despite the scale of the problem, Mrs Lawson believes there is a lack of information for those who need it – particularly parents.

“Parents always seem to be the ones who get missed out,” she said of mental health education more generally.

She believes the more mums and dads know about the issue, the better.

“It's a really useful topic for parents and carers to learn more about,” she said.

“It's like any illness – the sooner you deal with it, the better the outcome.

“We're trying to put education there before the problem appears so parents all understand what those problems are before they happen.

“If we did that more widely, it wouldn't cost the government so much money.”

The HuddlUp takes place at Quay Place in Ipswich between 9.30am and 12.30pm on Friday, May 3.

The event will include talks by Charlie Green, emotional needs and resources trainer at Suffolk Mind, as well as eating disorders expert Penny Smith.

For more information or to attend, visit here.

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