Peterborough woman with severe eating disorder opens up on nine-year struggle in campaign to improve support
A Peterborough woman with a severe eating disorder is campaigning to improve support which is available.
Jessica Ravenscroft wants to raise awareness of ‘failings’ in the system after a nine year struggle which also includes being diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).
The 24-year-old has herself attempted suicide after feeling like “no one is listening to me” having spent months trying to get person-centred support and has since thanked her family, police and the ambulance service for their help.
She believes others are at risk due to a lack of funding and specialist support in the community following discharge from specialist eating disorder services.
Jessica’s decision to open up on her journey and fundraise for eating disorder charity Beat comes a short time after the assistant coroner for Cambridgeshire, who presided over separate inquests into the deaths of five women with anorexia, warned that there may be a “significant under-reporting” of the extent to which eating disorders have caused or contributed to deaths.
Sean Horstead has written to parties including Health Secretary Matt Hancock asking for a timetable for action after stating there is a lack of training of doctors and other medical professionals about eating disorders.
He also raised concerns about the lack of a commissioned service to monitor moderate to high-risk anorexia patients and said that problems could be “significantly exacerbated” by the ongoing pandemic.
Jessica has documented her struggles through her personal account on social media site TikTok (@jess1997recovery) which has nearly 72,000 followers and half a million likes.
Some of her followers have told her that hearing her story has helped save their lives.
She is now planning to wheel 1km a day throughout April and has started a government petition calling for increased funding for aftercare support for people with eating disorders.
The Peterborough resident said: “There needs to be more help after being discharged from an eating disorder unit. Lives could be saved and it would prevent constant readmissions. That’s why I set up the petition.
“I’ve not had a lot of support. I asked for support but was told I couldn’t be offered it. I was discharged with just a meal plan - I didn’t have a dietician or anything.
“In one sense I’m lucky with my parents and a supportive care team, but some people are not so lucky. I have a friend who’s not doing well and services are not intervening.
“I could lose another friend to it and I’ve lost too many already.”
Jessica received life-changing injuries after attempting suicide last year - the second time she had tried to take her life in a few months.
She currently receives 24/7 community care but was recently taken to hospital and sectioned. She said she is now waiting for a referral to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust’s eating disorder service.
Speaking to the Peterborough Telegraph she said there is limited capacity for eating disorder support and that only those who appear to be suffering the most and are of the lowest weight receive treatment.
She also claimed that there is a lack of early and joint-up intervention before people hit crisis and a lack of communication between professionals involved in her care.
Jessica could not be visited by her parents - who have agreed for this article to be printed - while in hospital due to Covid restrictions and had one feed through a tube while under some restraint as she continued her relentless battle with anorexia.
Until a short time ago she was refusing all treatment which led to her health deteriorating, although her parents said she is now getting the support she needs.
The 24-year-old said: “I want to get better but I’ve asked for help and until recently it felt like no one was listening to me.
“I want to share my story as I don’t want people to have to go through what I’ve gone through. I am very lucky to be here today to share my story. I was very nearly just another statistic.”
Jessica spent five years during her teenage years in eating disorder units.
She was discharged in March 2017 into a supported living package and since then has had multiple periods of relapse and admissions to Peterborough City Hospital for medical intervention.
Jessica has become reliant on a feeding tube and currently receives 24/7 care in the community. Her parents said her carers meet her needs well but the lack of specialist mental health support has limited her chances of achieving a good standard of life.
Moreover, Jessica claims she was not checked-up to see how she was coping and that “getting the right support seems impossible”.
She said: “I have been asking for help for years but services only offer one pathway and they won’t offer any help outside of that.
“The last year has been far from easy. In early 2020 I was really struggling and I made an attempt on my own life but I was saved and me and my family have a lot to thank the police and ambulance service for.
“Then things started to improve and in February I managed to go on holiday to New York. But on return from New York things slowly started to spiral back.
“However, the support I received was next to nothing and Covid was always used as an excuse.
“And what happened next has changed my life and this is hard to share but I want to raise awareness.
“May was the most serious attempt I’ve made on my life, but we have so much to thank the police, ambulance service and air ambulance service for, and without them I wouldn’t be here today to share my story.
“But I have found getting the right support even after this seems impossible.
“All services focus on is labels and each pathway is different. There doesn’t seem to be any joint working between services. And this can make it very hard for people with dual diagnoses to get the support they need.
“I seem to be known by labels and not as a person. I have been told I have EUPD, an eating disorder, and PDD, but I have received next to no support since being in the community.
“Eating disorder services only seem to focus on weight, but the reality of an eating disorder is you can be at any weight and struggle. You shouldn’t have to be underweight to receive the right support. Eating disorders are a mental illness.
“Since my very serious attempt I’ve found that the waiting lists for services are ridiculous and Covid is always used as an excuse.
“After my attempt on my life I was discharged and at this time I was still bed-bound and wasn’t even able to sit up, but I was discharged with no follow-up appointments. I waited over two months for any appointments to come through.
“I am now in a wheelchair but there is still no lead professional coordinating everything. As a result of my attempt I now have various chronic illnesses as well as my mental health, but even with this there is still no link working between services.”
Jessica said her parents complained eight months ago and were promised better support, which is now being delivered.
Addressing fellow sufferers who are reading this article, she added: “I want you to know that it will get better. If you’re struggling please reach out to someone, whether that be a family member, a friend or a medical professional.
“I want to be able get through this and help other people going through this. I know it will never go away completely but I hope to be able to manage it better.”
A spokesman for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services for adults and children, said: “We can never comment on individual patient cases.
“Services for those in mental health crisis have continued to operate throughout the pandemic including our First Response Service which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to those in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who call the NHS 111 helpline and select option 2.
“If any patient has a question or concern about treatment then we would ask them to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service.”
Jessica’s petition can be found at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/563369.
To donate to Beat, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jessica-ravenscroft-raising-money-for-beat.
To contact Beat, visit: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/contact-us.
To contact Samaritans, visit: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/ or call 116 123.