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State’s secret epidemic

HELEN KEMPTON | The Mercury | March 14, 2012 12.01am

A NEW report shows 12,000 Tasmanians suffer from anorexia nervosa or bulimia.

It says the state needs a dedicated eating disorder co-ordinator to oversee better local support services.

The Sprouting Seeds report, compiled by the Hobart Women's Health Centre, says another 20,000 Tasmanians are impacted by binge eating disorders and the provision of a specialist eating disorder telephone line could save lives.

The report, released last week, said 4.8 per cent of Tasmania's female population was affected.

The number of males affected by eating disorders is on the rise.

The only public clinic in Tasmania which offers support for eating disorders, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit, is for clients aged under 18.

However, the report shows people aged between 10 and 70 are looking for help with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other disorders.

Minister for Community Development, Cassy O'Connor said the government would consider the report.

The Tasmanian Government last week put up $3000 to help Tasmania Recovery from Eating Disorders (TRED) fund a support service.

But the small outlay will not provide the range of services the report recommends - including a local eating disorders co-ordinator position or a dedicated phone support line.

"This will go nowhere - in essence it will be wasted because it funds nothing," Australian Medical Association Tasmanian president John Davis said.

"Eating disorders are a real issue and a major medical problem but again we see a health system trying to cobble together solutions. What this State needs is a intergrated health service not one where a whole lot of different issues are solved in their own silos."

Hobart Women's Health Centre consultation project officer and author of the report, Jan Van-Achteren, said the government funding was a start.

But she said it was nowhere near the funding needed to provide a comprehensive and organised service in Tasmania.

Ms Van Achteren said anorexia nervosa had the highest mortality of all psychiatric disorders - 12 times higher than the rate from all other psychiatric causes in females aged 15 to 24 years.

The report recommended the State Government engage an established mainland organisation to operate an eating disorders information line while the state worked to set up its own local service.

It also urged the government to fund an eating disorders co-ordinator in Tasmania who would, among other things, raise public awareness of eating disorders as a mental health issue.

Figures in the report show Tasmanians are unsure about where they can access support for their eating disorders.

Between September 2010 and May 2011, almost 100 patients, some as young as 10, accessed the Royal Hobart Hospital's Paediatric Eating Disorders Service while 43 adults, mostly women, sought help from private practitioners.

At the same time another 66 people with eating disorders contacted the mental health service Head Space and the Community Nutrition Unit received up to 20 calls about eating disorders a month.

Courtesy of The Mercury

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