Eating disorder services for young people in Ireland: perspectives of service providers, service users and the general adolescent population

McNicholas, F., O’Connor, C., McNamara, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-3123-3678 and O’Hara, L., 2015. Eating disorder services for young people in Ireland: perspectives of service providers, service users and the general adolescent population. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. ISSN 0790-9667

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Objectives: This paper illuminates how national eating disorder (ED) policy translates into day-to-day practice by exploring how ED services are experienced by those who deliver and use them. Methods: A mixed-methods approach was used, which combined qualitative and quantitative techniques. The paper collates data from three studies: (i) an interview study exploring the lived experiences of young people with EDs (n =8), their parents (n =5) and their healthcare professionals (n =3); (ii) a national survey of health professionals’ perspectives on existing ED services (n =171); (iii) a nationwide survey of secondary-school students’ eating concerns and patterns of help - seeking (n=290). Results: The qualitative interviews with young people and their parents revealed feelings of isolation and helplessness. Young people expressed interest in patient support groups, while parents desired greater support for the family unit. Parents were highly critical of available services, particularly in relation to access. These criticisms were echoed in the survey of healthcare professionals, who reported many barriers to delivering effective care. Clinicians were almost unanimous in calling for care pathways to be clarified via a standardised treatment protocol. The survey of adolescents indicated widespread reluctance to seek help regarding eating concerns: over one-third expressed concern about their own eating habits, but half of these had not divulged their concerns to anyone. Participants’ preferred pathways of help-seeking revolved around family and friends, and adolescents were unsure about routes of access to professional support. 3 Conclusions: The research demonstrates that many aspects of national ED policy have not been implemented in practice. The paper highlights specific gaps and suggests ways they can be redressed.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine
Creators: McNicholas, F., O’Connor, C., McNamara, N. and O’Hara, L.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: 2015
ISSN: 0790-9667
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 01 Feb 2016 12:42
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 13:58

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