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Addressing the mental health needs of carers

13 December 2010

Scientists have long recognised that carers of people with eating disorders (ED) are very eager to support the treatment and recovery of a loved one, though they’re often ill-equipped to take on the task. 

An interactive web-based multimedia intervention programme to address the needs of carers’ of sufferers of anorexia nervosa (AN) was developed by researchers,from the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health (BRC) at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King's. The programme, which won a London NHS Innovation award, was designed in collaboration with a carer and former service user. It helps carers to assess and reflect on their own behaviour, it provides information, encourages self-monitoring and teaches skills in identifying, understanding and managing symptoms of anorexia. It also helps carers to look after their own needs.

A recent feasibility study by PhD student, Miriam Grover and colleagues, evaluated this programme in 27 carers of people with AN and measured carers’ levels of distress and expressed emotion, burden of care-giving, and ability to problem-solve. Key findings were significant reductions in carers’ anxiety and depression and improvements on most of the other outcome measures after the web-intervention.

Professor Schmidt, the lead developer of the web-programme and Head of the Section of Eating Disorders at the IoP, said: ‘Carers clearly found the programme very valuable as shown by these improvements and their many informal comments. With this programme we can reach and support carers who find it difficult for work or travel reasons to come to the clinic and those who may have a daughter in the very early stages of the illness’.

The authors of this paper are encouraged by the results; though assert that further investigation of the programme is required.

‘An off-line pilot evaluation of a web-based systemic cognitive-behavioural intervention for carers of people with anorexia nervosa’ is published in International Journal of Eating Disorders. To read the paper in full, please follow the link

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