Newsreader Mark Austin reveals daughter”s anorexia battle
Newsreader Mark Austin has revealed his teenage daughter was “shrinking before our eyes” when she became “dangerously ill” with anorexia and depression.
The ITV News journalist said she lost four stone (25kg) and was close to organ failure but found “there wasn”t really the help there” for her.
There were not enough services to meet a mental health “epidemic”, he said.
MP Sarah Wollaston said the health select committee was to hold an inquiry into child mental health services.
She said too many children with serious mental health conditions were being turned away from treatment.
Mr Austin told told the BBC Radio 4″s The World at One his daughter stopped eating and entered a “very bleak, dark world of depression” when she was 17 or 18.
“She was there but she was gone and it all happened very quickly and we thought we were losing her.
“So we tried to get help but there wasn”t really the help there,” he told the BBC Radio 4″s The World at One.
He said she required “quick, significant intervention” but was instead offered counselling once a fortnight.
She became “very dangerously ill” after four or five months, he added, falling to less than six stone in weight (38kg).
“We were lucky”
He said his family decided to pay for private care, but withdrew because they did not agree with some of the treatments – including forced feeding.
Mr Austin, who presents the ITV Evening News, said the situation became more complicated when his daughter turned 18 because he was no longer able to see her medical notes.
The family began caring for her at home and were “lucky” to find somewhere to treat her during the day, he told the programme.
“Had it not been for the fact that my wife is an A&E doctor, I”m not sure what would have happened, but she was getting close to organ failure,” Mr Austin said.
“There were no beds available, there was no specialist unit available, she needed to be in somewhere where they were looking after her with people of her own age.”
He called on the government to “spend more money” and to ensure there were specialist units available for young people.
Mr Austin said his daughter was now “doing fine”.
He added: “We were very lucky. I”ve got money, I can have private insurance.
“I”ve got a wife who is an A&E doctor but what about the people who don”t have that? What about the people who don”t have the resources to go private?”
“It creeps up on you very slowly”
Richard was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder when he was 15.
“I remember every night climbing in and out of bed without touching my carpet and being terrified of falling out of bed,” he told The World at One.
“I think it got to a stage where I couldn”t mask it anymore, I couldn”t hide it, I couldn”t disguise the behaviour, I couldn”t pass it off as, “oh I”m fine I”m just feeling a little weird today.””
When he was 18, he reached a stage where he could not get out of bed and “couldn”t touch anything”, or be touched by his own father.
“People get shocked when I say I spent nine months bed-bound because of mental illness.
“It creeps up on you very slowly but happens very very quickly at the same time. I really can”t remember the day I just thought “I can”t go downstairs”.”
Richard”s father Barry said he was told by a professional to bring Richard to them, but said: “What do I do? Pick up an 18-year-old? I just couldn”t help him.”
Seeing his father break down in front of him and offering to help them both take their own lives turned “all of the lights back on”, Richard said.
“I suddenly went, “I need to get better for him.””.
Conservative MP Dr Wollaston, a GP, said “too many” young people were being treated for “the most complicated and severe problems for the want of early intervention”.
She said: “Although a lot of money has been given towards children and young people”s mental health, relatively little of that is getting to the frontline and there”s huge variations, so some councils are spending as little as £2 per child on mental health services whereas others are spending over £100.”
Dr Wollaston, chair of the health select committee, told the programme: “Young people told us that they wanted services to be available within schools.
“We are today launching a call for evidence for a follow up inquiry into children”s and adolescents” mental health and the role of schools in prevention and early intervention.
“This will include examining the impact of social media and bullying.”
The government last year pledged £1.4bn for child mental health by 2020, but a report found millions of pounds was being used to offset NHS cuts elsewhere and was not making the frontline.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said child mental illness was an area where the government needed to do “a lot better”, telling The World at One that changes needed to be made.
He said: “It is partly about making financial commitment which I believe we are making. It is also about consistency of service because, as Mark Austin and other people have pointed out, it is very patchy.”
Listen to The World at One”s special programme on child mental health here.