From hard times to inspiring others – volunteering in young people’s eating disorder services

by Richard Marsh, Hopewood

In 2019 our CAMHS Eating Disorder team identified that we had a lack of young people and families involved in our service. To address this we started two new pathways – a YP volunteer pathway (over the age of 16), and parent support pathway.

Over the last year with the help of our four volunteers Rachel, Andrea, Liz and Amy we have continued to enhance our parent support group (that takes place monthly) for families with young people who experience an eating disorder. This is a vital support for parents and carers, to be able to speak to and be supported by other people who have been through the same thing they are now going through.

Andrea and Rachel have been a huge part of this group over the past five years and have recently started to be more involved in running this group, which has allowed clinicians to step back. This is the ideal scenario, that the support group is run by volunteers who have been in similar positions to the parents and carers they are supporting. We are currently not running this due lockdown, but hopefully we will soon be able to get this up and running and will be involving both Adult services and CAMHS families.

Alongside Rachel and Andrea, we have Liz and Amy and the four of them make up our Parent-2-Parent support service. This is a new service that they helped to set up to offer one-to-one support for parents who need more input then just a group. We offer  parents and carers 6-9 sessions of Parent-2-Parent support over the phone or face to face. Since we set up the service in November 2019, they have helped a number of parents; the feedback we’ve had shows that the support these volunteers have offered is invaluable. One parent they supported was Sarah, who felt so strongly about the value of the support she has decided to be our fifth volunteer when we restart the service again. Sarah will bring her own wealth of experience and she is also helping us to think about social media to help many families to connect in a different way. If successful we will hopefully be able to use this for our parents group.

Another service we have started in 2019 is our young person’s group and peer support service. We managed to recruit three volunteers who have been or are still in our service to support other young people. They receive help from professionals but being able to speak to people their own age who have been through similar makes a huge difference. In the last year Sara, Jack and Abbie have created a young person’s eating disorder support group and peer support service called Freedom to Thrive. Their dedication, commitment and passion in creating this service has been amazing, and they should be truly proud of their hard work over the past year to develop this service. Unfortunately due to the unusual circumstances we are now in, these two projects have not been able to fully get started, but I know that they will be a huge success once we get them going again and will be invaluable to young people using our service.

Andrea, Rachel, Liz and Amy, Jack, Sara, Abbie and Sarah have been amazing over the past few months and we as CAMHS Eating Disorder service have been overwhelmed by their support and the time they have given to our service. We have gone from a service with no real input from people who use the service to recruiting eight amazing volunteers and setting up two amazing volunteer led pathways, which I’m certain will lead to  more involvement from other parents and young people. I’m proud to work alongside each and every one of them.

Their dedication and passion to help other parents and young people  who are going through their own personal eating disorder journey is inspiring. Their experience and knowledge of eating disorder and how they support other parents and young people to think about how to manage it on a day to day basis is amazing, and we would like to thank all of them for volunteering in our service. I know the eight of them will continue to make a huge difference to parents, carers and young people. We can’t thank you enough.

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