Published Wednesday, 26 February 2014
The parents of a young woman who battled an eating disorder are helping out. (© UTV)
Eating Disorder Awareness week runs until Sunday - it is a chance to not only raise awareness and understanding about the serious mental illnesses, but also to challenge the stigmas surrounding them.
Debbie Howard was just 12 when she developed anorexia nervosa.
At her lowest ebb, she weighed just five and a half stone.
She told UTV: "It is hard to put in to words, it's relentless. It's 24 hours a day, your mind is obsessed with thinking about food and calories and fat."
At one stage her parents thought they were losing her.
Her mother Patricia said: "The consultant said to me, 'I am not asking you I am telling you.'
"She said: 'Debbie's heart is the only muscle left working in her body and I have to make provision for when your daughter has heart failure.'
"And I will never forget that day and we brought her home and she continued then flying to London on a weekly basis.
"She could hardly walk she was so weak. Thankfully, three years later we are out the other side of this," she added.
Debbie is now well and has qualified as a psychotherapist.
She's the chair of CARED NI, a charity that uses the new Maudsley method, a family based treatment for eating disorders. CARED stands for Caring About Recovery from Eating Disorders.
Debbie explained: "This model teaches parents the tools and the skills that they need to manage and deal with their loved one and the reason behind it is that I would see my therapist in London for one hour where as all of those other hours, I am at home with my family. So it is really important to teach the family the ways to deal with their young one."
Dianne and Ivan Shaw feared for their daughter's life as she battled anorexia.
They are now involved in the charity which aims to provide free monthly sessions across each county in NI.
Dianne said: "If I go to something I want to come out with a new tool, I want to learn something and this is what we hope to be able to give them [other families].
"It has been nearly two years we have been fundraising. It has taken the time for to get the money together but now we are in a position, we have got what we think we are going to need for the next two or three years to get together.
"We are hoping that there will be a course for parents to attend every single month in the province."
Dianne and Ivan credit the new Maudsley method with helping their daughter's recovery.
CARED NI telephone: 07999901936
She had a baby boy earlier this week, giving this story a happy ending - something they want for other families battling an eating disorder.
© UTV News