A new children and young people’s community eating disorders service, Freedom Team, is set to launch during national Eating Disorder Awareness Week, 25 February – 3 March 2019.

Twenty-two-year-old Hazel welcomed the launch of the new service run by Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust; she knows what it’s like to struggle with an eating disorder, having suffered from anorexia before her family encouraged her to get help.  Over two years later Hazel is using her own experience to encourage other young people to get help.

The Care Trust has launched the new service to help young people like Hazel get the help and support they need to tackle an eating disorder. The new service is based on the expertise of an already well-established team, which includes Dr Nicky Dawson, Freedom Team Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.  Dr Dawson was instrumental in helping Hazel get back on track.

Dr Dawson said: “Early diagnosis and treatment is vital.  By helping young people when the problem first arises we aim to significantly reduce problems before they become more challenging or remain with young people into adulthood.”

The effects of an eating disorder can be devastating for both the young person and their family, causing in some instances serious long-term and even life-threatening health problems.

Eating disorders are mental health conditions that rarely get better on their own; the sooner an individual seeks help, the more likely they are to make a full recovery. Talking about the condition and seeking help can often be difficult for young people suffering from the disorder.

Hazel said: “I suffered from anorexia between the ages of 15 and 20.”  At her lowest weight, Hazel did not perceive herself to have an eating disorder. Hazel explained: “I always felt fat and hated my body. I also found myself looking on social media platforms at other people who were really thin.  I’d see them as looking anorexic, but I couldn’t see that I looked really thin. So, then I thought the weighing scales were wrong and not giving an accurate weight.”

Anorexia is a very serious condition that can be life threatening, with mortality rates higher than all other mental health conditions combined.

Hazel has tackled the issue and come through the other side; she’s at the University of Leeds, studying for a degree in Environmental Sciences and has a bright future ahead of her.   On overcoming the eating disorder, Hazel said: “I feel very proud. I feel like I got really good care from the service and have benefitted from it so much. I think I would have been lost without it.”

Hazel also works as a student ambassador at the university and says: “I really like to do things to help other people and if I know someone is struggling with an eating disorder I try and encourage them to have a better relationship with food.”

The Freedom Team offers support to young people, under 18 years of age, and their families living in Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale or Craven. The service, based in Keighley, is available Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm.

To find out more about support available through the Freedom Team visit the website at: www.bdct.nhs.uk/services/freedom-team/