Mark Austin feared for daughter's life as she became 'dangerously ill' with anorexia

'She suddenly stopped eating and entered a very bleak, dark world of depression,' newsreader says

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The Independent Online

Mark Austin has said he thought he was losing his daughter when she began “shrinking away before our eyes” as she became “dangerously ill” with anorexia.

The ITN newsreader said his teenage daughter suddenly stopped eating during her A-Levels which resulted in her weight plummeting by four stone leaving her close to organ failure. Austin says she was in a “very bleak, dark world of depression” which eventually left her “dangerously ill”.

“It was very sudden. She became very ill, very quickly. She suddenly stopped eating and entered a very bleak, dark world of depression,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One. “She was basically shrinking away before our eyes. She was there but she was gone and it all happened very quickly and we thought we were losing her.”

Austin said when he tried to get his daughter help, she was offered fortnightly counselling which was not enough given the state of her illness. He says she instead required a “quick, significant intervention” as her weight dropped to below six stone and her health deteriorated.

The 58-year-old said they found there were no beds or specialist units available on the NHS, initial private treatments did not work either and eventually, the journalist and his wife, who is an Accident and Emergency doctor, looked after her themselves. 

However, when their daughter turned 18 the problems intensified as they were no longer allowed access to her medical notes.

 

Austin said help eventually came in the form of a day centre that kept his daughter in as a patient during the daytime and she returned home to the family at night.

“We were very lucky to find that and there a lot of families in this country that don’t find these places,” he said. “[…] We have the best emergency medicine in the world when it comes to physical health… mental health you cannot say that. We are heading towards an epidemic in mental health and there are not the resources there to deal with it.”

Austin said his daughter is now "doing fine" after finding a good therapist and says she looks back on her illness and thinks there is a "fundamental misunderstanding" about anorexia.

He called on the government to invest more money into combatting the illness and said more specialist units should be built by the NHS saying they were "lucky" to be able to afford the care needed for his daughter.

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