Battling eating disorders

from left, Jennifer Kay, Drop-In Volunteer, Orina Mulvenna, Drop-In and Group Volunteer, Shelley Perry, Chief Executive and Gemma Turner, chair at SEED
from left, Jennifer Kay, Drop-In Volunteer, Orina Mulvenna, Drop-In and Group Volunteer, Shelley Perry, Chief Executive and Gemma Turner, chair at SEED
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One woman from Preston is hoping to stop history repeating and to provide a lifeline meaning no one has to suffer in silence

SUFFERERS of eating disorders often cope alone, silently and secretly for many years.

The very nature of the diseases can lead to feelings of isolation and those battling with the demons of the disorder can become secretive and distant.

Shelley Perry, a mum-of-one, from Ingol, Preston can speak from experience.

She says; “I had an eating disorder myself many years ago and following having had an eating disorder and being aware that there were, at the time, very little services in the community, both in terms of treatment and support, I decided that I wanted to set up and eating disorder treatment service and support service in the community.”

That service is SEED (Support and Education for Eating Disorders), a network of support for sufferers of eating, food or weight related issues that sufferers can use in a safe and confidential environment, based at Preston College, Fulwood.

In 2007, Shelley was approached to set up a group that quickly evolved into a drop-in-service and carer’s clinic and went into schools to conduct body image and self-esteem workshops as well as training professionals and hosting awareness events.

Due to demand, in 2009, Shelley realised there still wasn’t enough support available in terms of treatment and access to treatment so a sister service, BREATHE, a treatment clinic based at Fulwood Therapy Centre was also established.

As Chief Executive, Shelley isn’t one to preach.

Having been in the same position that many of the service-users of SEED are in, she has a deeper understanding of what needs and treatments are required.

She says; “Because of my own personal journey, having come through it; having low self-worth and lacking the sense of identity and confusion, depression and chaos and all of that, the ethos of the organisation is that we’re keen to support people at whatever stage of the journey they’re on.

“Way back when I had an eating disorder there were no support service specialists or support groups but I was quite fortunate in that I had a really good GP, I had a lot of support from the church, and I was referred through to counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy – all the things that someone with an eating disorder needs.

“We want to sow the seed and watch people grow in every aspect of their life.”

And SEED is certainly growing.

Ex-service user and now chairperson of the service, Gemma Turner has taken much of her influence from Shelley.

Gemma says; “The support at SEED and BREATHE has saved my life on so many levels.

“When you have an eating disorder you really don’t have a life because you’re so centred on losing weight and self-punishment and feeling you’re not good enough and it’s unbelievable the impact services SEED an BREATHE offer have – it’s really inspired me.”

Though many of the volunteers that work at SEED have some experience of eating disorders, Shelley and the rest of the group are keen to recruit volunteers with experience in other areas.

“We welcome a whole range of people to be volunteers with different backgrounds and skills from marketing, admin and finance,” she says.

“He came to us very quiet and he would sit in the corner and do his work and now he’s cheeky and is like a completely different person.”

To volunteer contact SEED for a wide range of volunteering opportunities –