My new book When Anorexia Came To Visit describes the experiences of 20 families in the UK battling with an eating disorder and the obstacles they had to overcome in the UK's provision for adolescent mental health. This isn't just a book for parents, it's a book that the health professionals themselves need to read: doctors, Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services teams (CAMHS), psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, politicians - everyone. The problem is, how do we get it to them?
Telling people about When Anorexia Came To Visit isn't like other books in that it's not a case of me, the writer / compiler, wanting to make money from it. Any money I make (and I only make a nominal amount per copy) goes towards the free copies which I send out to eating disorder charities and other people - plus other costs.
So, by helping me to get the word out there that When Anorexia Came To Visit exists and NEEDS TO BE READ, you're not making me rich. What you are doing is helping to spread the word that there are serious gaps in UK mental health provision and training for eating disorders treatment, all of which need to be addressed to help other families access the good quality treatment they deserve.
At GP level, doctors are failing to diagnose eating disorders, dragging their heels when it comes to referrals, or admitting that they know very little about this illness - the biggest killer of all mental health conditions.
Post-referral, treatment is patchy depending on where you live. Some people have access to excellent specialist eating disorder services while others get referred to a more generalised service like CAMHS which can sometimes be where things come unstuck. Some families don't have access to any eating disorder treatment at all - or are forced to go private. And everything can so easily fall apart once a young person reaches the age of 18 and is moved onto Adult Mental Health Services - or where a young adult is unable to recognise that they are ill and refuses further treatment.
Treatment methods and models vary. Some have achieved better results than others with this cross-section of 20 families who come from across the UK including Scotland and Wales, and who include boys as well as girls.
Sometimes families are included in adolescent treatment for eating disorders and sometimes they are not. And, all too often, families simply aren't being given the vital tools to know how to feed their anorexic child, prevent purging and deal with the terrible rages and extreme behaviour that an eating disorder like anorexia can bring.
Also, all too often, families are encountering problems with other health services and especially A&E, where staff appear to know little about eating disorders.
Across the board, health professionals - including mental health professionals who should know better - are saying the wrong things, the kind of comments that make us parents draw a sharp intake of breath.
And, in some truly awful instances, the finger is being pointed at parents, suggesting that the eating disorder is a result of abuse.
Obviously When Anorexia Came To Visit only documents the stories of 20 out of the thousands of families in the UK that are struggling with a son or daughter with an eating disorder. But I believe it's a very good cross section which gives a balanced picture of what is happening within the world of eating disorders in the UK today.
This is why this book needs to get out there to the people that need to read it so they can see what goes on, from the family's perspective, both in a clinical setting and at home.