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Helpline demand soars with 28% of new contacts noting coronavirus as a trigger

Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, has reported demand for its Helpline services in the past six months has increased by 97% compared to the same period last year.

The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on those affected by an eating disorder, with 28% of people reaching out to the Helpline from May – July 2020 linking coronavirus as the possible trigger for relapsing or developing symptoms.

Common concerns have ranged from not being able to access safe foods or shops, reduced access to treatment, worries around the lifting of lockdown and confusion around new regulations.

Beat has increased its service provision to respond to this huge demand, including coronavirus support group The Sanctuary, and is now further expanding with a new range of free, UK-wide support services. These include:

This is made possible thanks to a grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Caroline Price, Beat’s Director of Services, says: ‘These past few months have been devastating for many people affected by eating disorders. They have had to adjust to extreme changes to their treatment arrangements, and for many, a severely reduced support network.

‘Most worryingly, we are hearing from more and more people coming forward for the first time because of coronavirus, either from relapsing or realising they have become unwell. We would like to reassure anyone affected that we are here no matter what stage they are at – from feeling concerned about their health for the first time to coping with new challenges in recovery. 

‘Whilst we diverted our efforts to frontline services during lockdown, like so many other charities we had to prepare for a drop in income. These new services will allow us to support so many more people at such a critical time, and we are extremely grateful for the Lottery’s extra investment.’

Hannah, a Helpline team member, says: ‘During lockdown, a common feeling which came up again and again during the calls I took was one of desperation: from the inability to find foods they needed, to the prospect of being cooped up in one space without their usual coping mechanisms.

‘However, I also saw that the support groups became places many people returned to, and still do. I am in awe of the bravery, openness, and honesty of those using the groups, who were able to get so much from them whilst also holding each other up through such a difficult time.’

Elly De Decker, England Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, says: ‘Coronavirus and the implications of lockdown have been particularly hard for people and communities who were already vulnerable. Now, Beat will be able to reach out and respond to even more people affected by eating disorders, ensuring they are supported on their journey to recovery. National Lottery players can be proud that the money they have raised is funding vital work in an exceptionally difficult time.’

About The National Lottery Community Fund

The National Lottery Community Fund are the largest funder of community activity in the UK – and are proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.  

We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.