More Than 10,000 People Call For ‘Urgent’ Eating Disorder Support After Nikki Grahame’s Death
More than 10,000 people have called for increased funding for eating disorder support in the UK in the wake of Nikki Grahame’s death.
The iconic British reality star, who rose to fame on the seventh series of Big Brother UK in 2006, had spoken candidly about her battles with anorexia, even releasing two books on the subject, Dying to Be Thin (2009) and Fragile (2012).
Fans were greatly saddened to learn of Nikki’s death at the age of 38. Likeable and funny, Nikki was one of the most memorable Big Brother contestants of the show’s golden age, with her famous ‘who is she?’ rant continuing to raise a smile years after she left the Diary Room.
The news of Nikki’s death on April 9 was announced via a GoFundMe page set up by friends who had been desperate to get Nikki the treatment she urgently needed.
A statement on the page read:
The basic treatment Nikki has been receiving from the NHS is simply just not working for her so her only option now is to seek expensive intensive treatment at The Priory or a similar alternative facility alongside meticulous private therapy.
The above treatment and facility costs £25,000 per month and we believe this is her only option to provide the care and life saving treatment she needs.
At the time of Nikki’s death, shortly after she’d checked into a private hospital, the caring friends had been able to raise over £65,500. They later announced that a small amount would be put towards Nikki’s funeral costs, with the remaining funds donated to an eating disorder organisation.
The idea that anyone should have to raise such a large sum of money for life saving treatment hit home with a lot of people, with many knowing far too well that most sufferers won’t have the same sort of platform that Nikki had.
According to leading UK eating disorder charity Beat, anorexia is known to have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, due to associated medical complications, as well as suicide.
Despite such devastating statistics, much more needs to be done to reflect the severity of this illness, with greater action required to improve eating disorder services in the UK.
Research by Beat found an average of three-and-a-half years pass between eating disorder symptoms emerging and treatment beginning. The ongoing pandemic has further exacerbated concerns over long waiting lists and inadequate funding, factors that can have tragic consequences.
For example, a March 2021 press release from the Royal College of Psychiatrists detailed how referrals to eating disorder inpatient settings – as well as emergency admissions to acute hospitals – had risen by a fifth in a Provider Collaborative in the south of England, while waiting times had doubled over the course of the pandemic.
It was also found that the average number of referrals at this Provider Collaborative had shown a 20% increase from March 2020 to November 2020, compared with data taken July 2018 to February 2020, while waiting times treatment had more than doubled, rising from 33 days up to 67 days.
Furthermore, during the pandemic, the average distance from home to treatment increased from 42 miles to 62 miles, with seven patients sent to Glasgow as no beds had been available for them in England.
When it comes to eating disorders, getting prompt, adequate treatment is the best way to help a person make a full recovery, and so such statistics make for disturbing reading.
Speaking on This Morning, Nikki’s mum Susan said that her daughter had been doing well prior to the pandemic, but had been impacted by the restrictions and isolation of lockdown:
It sounds crazy but even stuff like gyms closing, which is quite important to Nikki as she needs to know she can exercise. The isolation, she couldn’t see anyone. I offered to stay with her but she said ‘I need to stay in my own home’. It’s been really hard for her, really hard.
She had terminal loneliness… she was cut off, spending too much time on her own, and nothing to think about other than food.
After Nikki’s death, a petition was started by a woman named Becki Copley that asked the UK government to increase funding for eating disorder treatment both for community and inpatient treatment.
The petition stated:
There is a national crisis within services for eating disorders. No inpatient beds, not enough community clinicians and a backlog of referrals for people in urgent need of support.
There needs to be an overhaul of services and an increase of inpatient facilities in both child and adult settings.
The petition, which quickly gained traction, has more than 10,900 signatures at the time of writing, more than the amount needed for the UK government to respond. What action is taken next remains to be seen. but it’s clear this is a cause close to many hearts.
Beat’s Director of External Affairs, Tom Quinn, told UNILAD:
Eating disorder services have been underfunded for years, and in the wake of the pandemic the need for investment has become even more urgent.
Alongside an increase in funding we need to see access and waiting time standards for adults introduced and upheld, so that everyone in need of help can get it promptly.
Like lots of people across the UK, Nikki had battled with her eating disorder for a number of years, having reportedly suffered since she was eight years old.
The passing of Nikki, who brought so much fun and laughter to the lives of friends and strangers alike, will no doubt remind many family members of loved ones who have shown courage in the face of such illnesses.
One of the best ways to mark Nikki’s death would be to improve how eating disorder sufferers are cared for, allowing for more beloved daughters, sons and friends to live on, recover and tell their stories.
You can sign the petition here.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this article and would like to speak with someone in confidence, call the BEAT Eating Disorders helpline on 0808 801 0677. Helplines are open 365 days a year from 9am–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays. Alternatively, you can try the one-to-one webchat.
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