New service to help FNQ beat eating disorders

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A new service that is launching in Far North Queensland aims to provide fast, effective care and treatment for those affected by eating disorders.

Today is World Eating Disorder Action Day, and the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service is launching the new North Queensland Eating Disorder Service (NQuEDS).

The Cairns-based service, the only one of its kind north of Brisbane, will provide specialist eating disorder services to people over the age of 18, between the Burdekin and the Daintree.

NQuEDS’ consultant psychiatrist, Dr Janet Bayley, said there was about 28,000 people living with eating disorders across the region.

“One of every four people in Australia knows someone who has an eating disorder,” she said.

“However, very few people actually seek treatment because there are limited resources in private practice for actually assessing and treating those living with eating disorders in our region.

“There are eating disorder services providing tertiary-level psychiatric support for patients in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.

“There is a clear need for this service, because there are so many people silently suffering from severe psychiatric illnesses such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.”

NQuEDS is staffed by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a mental health nurse, and a dietitian.

While the service is based in Cairns, telehealth services are being offered to patients who live outside of the Cairns area, in particular those in rural and remote parts of the region.

Service dietitian Emma Coleman said eating disorders were estimated to affect up to 9 per cent of the total population of Australia.

Ms Coleman said eating disorders came in all shapes and sizes.

“They occur in men and women, young and old, rich and poor, and in people of all weights and sizes, and from all cultural backgrounds,” she said.

“A person diagnosed with anorexia nervosa may have minimal to no food intake over an extended period of time, while a person diagnosed with binge eating disorder may be eating a very large amount of food within a relatively short period of time.

“The key to treating these disorders is motivating individuals to seek appropriate medical treatment.”

Patients seeking medical treatment for eating disorders can get a referral from their GP to the North Queensland Eating Disorder Service.

Fast facts:

  • Commonly known eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, and Binge Eating Disorder
  • Eating disorders are estimated to affect between 4-9 per cent of the total population
  • In Australia, it has been estimated that more than 2 million people are experiencing a form of eating disorder
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness - approximately 20 per cent
  • For women, the risk is even higher with an estimated 15 per cent of Australian women experiencing an eating disorder requiring clinical intervention during their lifetime
  • The mortality rate for people with Anorexia Nervosa is the highest of all psychiatric illnesses, and over 12 times higher than that for people without eating disorders.
  • It is estimated in Australia, each year, 450 people will die from Anorexia Nervosa, 200 people will die from Bulimia Nervosa, and 90 people with Anorexia Nervosa will die from suicide.