Families and support people play a crucial role in the care, support and recovery of people experiencing an eating disorder. A carer or support can be a parent, partner, friend, sibling, grandparent, child, grandchild, relative, neighbour, colleague or any other person caring for or supporting someone living with an eating disorder.
Carers and supports can contribute to an effective collaborative care approach in three key areas:
Supporting engagement with treatment: Some people experiencing an eating disorder may be reluctant to seek help due to the nature of the eating disorder. Families and supports play a vital role in influencing help seeking, raising awareness of eating disorder behaviours, and supporting recognition of stages in recovery.
Supporting implementation of treatment strategies and approaches: The family and/or support network are integral members of the care team. They may support the person to implement behavioural changes throughout treatment, such as sitting with the person at mealtimes and helping them cope with distress.
Supporting recovery: Recovery takes time and families and supports have a key role to play in supporting a person throughout their recovery journey.
Supporting and caring for a loved one experiencing an eating disorder can be challenging and distressing for family and supports. This page provides a list of resources and avenues for support for families and supports of people with lived experience of an eating disorder. These resources include online materials, tools, and programs, as well as services that provide telephone, online, and/or face-to-face to support.
Information and factsheets
Eating disorders organisations and support services
Butterfly Helpline provides information, referrals, and brief counselling for people experiencing an eating disorder, disordered eating and/or body image concerns as well as family and supports. Free and confidential support is available via phone, email and online chat for anyone in Australia affected by an eating disorder or body image issue, including family and supports. Call 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE), and access Butterfly’s online support via their website.
Butterfly also facilitate online support groups for people who are supporting someone with an eating disorder. More information here.
Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA)
EDFA has been established by a group of Australian parents who have cared for and treated a young person with an eating disorder, to advocate for the needs and roles of other parents during this experience. It has carer support groups available. Access their website here.
Eating Disorders Victoria (EDV)
EDV connects people who are affected by eating disorders including family and supports in Victoria with the services they need for recovery. Services include telephone helpline, support groups, online chat room and discussion board, and education and support workshops for people experiencing eating disorders, and family and supports. Access their website here.
Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ)
Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ), a not-for-profit providing integrated eating disorder support services and resources to people living in Queensland who are living with and/or recovering from an eating disorder and their families and supports.
Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment for Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.)
F.E.A.S.T. is a nonprofit global community of parents of someone who has or is currently experiencing an eating disorder, providing support to parents and caregivers of people with eating disorders. The website includes information and resources about eating disorders and treatment options, an online caregivers forum, online stories and letters, weblinks to parent blogs, and other resources. Access their website here.
Resources for family and supports
Eating Disorders Carer Help Kit
Eating Disorders Carers Help Kit provides family members, carers, and key support people with information and resources about eating disorders, treatment options, and ways to help your loved one. The Shared Table Meal Support Training is an online meal support training program for carers. Access their website here.
Feed Your Instinct (FYI)
FYI is an interactive tool developed by The Victorian Centre of Excellence in Eating Disorders (CEED) to support parents of children and young people experiencing eating disorders and/or body image problems. ROAR provides a list of helpful resources and an interactive tool that allows parents to generate a report based on your answers to questions about behaviours and thinking patterns related to eating and body concerns they may be observing in their child. Access the website here.
Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI)
CCI have developed a range of resources to educate and support people experiencing an eating disorder and their family and supports. Access their website here.
Mental Health First Aid Australia – Eating Disorder First Aid Guidelines
The Eating Disorder First Aid Guidelines are designed to help members of the public provide first aid to someone who is developing or experiencing an eating disorder. Access the guidelines here.
Seeking professional help
Your GP is a good ‘first base’ to talk to about your concerns and can refer you to a practitioner with specific knowledge in eating disorders. Your GP can help you to connect with the right care team for the person.
Remember that it may take time to find the right treatment and the right therapist to meet the needs of the person you care about. Everyone responds differently to different types of treatment and your doctor or specialist will advise you on which treatment they feel may be most beneficial. The best type of treatment is one that is focused on the needs of the person experiencing an eating disorder and includes their family or circle of support within care planning.