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Festive season can be challenging for Northern Irish carers, but eating disorder support is available

The festive season can be incredibly difficult for people who are caring for a loved one with an eating disorder, but we’re here to help. During November and December 2021, at we provided over 6 times the number of support sessions to people in Northern Ireland in comparison to the same time period in 2019, and almost double the amount of support than the same time period in 2020. This included supporting people with eating disorders, but also those caring for a loved one with an eating disorder. We expect that demand for eating disorder support will continue to grow this festive season.

To help ensure that carers across Northern Ireland feel supported, we’ve opened spaces for our Coping with Celebrations programme. It’s a free online course designed to help carers, parents, families and partners to guide their loved one towards recovery.

Our Coping with Celebrations course includes:

Jo*, a carer who has received support from Beat says: ‘Coping with Celebrations has provided the opportunity for me to hear other people's stories, to share our concerns and frustrations, and to share positive actions that might help our loved ones. The Beat trainers are always very good at giving everyone the chance to be heard and hearing from a Beat volunteer is always inspiring.’

Nicola Armstrong, Beat’s National Lead for Northern Ireland says: ‘Christmas and other celebrations can be an incredibly difficult time for those with eating disorders. They can often focus on eating increased amounts of food, spending time with extended family who may not know about a person’s eating disorder, and a lack of routine. This can cause feelings of isolation and distress both for the person who is unwell and their loved ones.

‘We often hear from carers who find supporting a loved one overwhelming, especially if they do not have any support for their own mental health. Our Coping with Celebrations programme is a safe and non-judgemental space for carers to share their worries and develop skills to support themselves as well as their loved one.’

Orla Black, Grants Director for the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, which funds Beat’s Coping with Celebrations course says: ‘Carers provide such an important role in society, but it often goes unnoticed that this role remains invaluable. Carers range from children and young people, to those caring for parents of every age, partners and sometimes friends. All of these carers have different needs and often have to balance their caring duties with education or work.

‘The Community Foundation are proud to be working with the Department of Health to administer the Carers Support Fund, which has awarded £2.49m to groups including Beat to offer support and respite to these carers who contribute such a huge amount to society.

‘The festive season can be stressful enough for many, but with the added responsibilities and stresses that accompany those in caring roles, these difficulties are multiplied.’

*Names have been changed

Where can I access support?

Spaces for our Coping with Celebrations workshops are now open to carers across the UK between November and mid-December. You can sign up here.

With the right support, recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Our friendly team supports people with eating disorders as well as their loved ones 365 days a year via our helpline, online web chat, and online support groups. You can find out more about our Northern Ireland support here.

Live in England, Wales or Scotland? You can find help here.