London Colney anorexia survivor shares story following funding boost to Herts support services

The Tompsett family, including Kathryn (centre), who is an anorexia survivor

The Tompsett family, including Kathryn (centre), who is an anorexia survivor - Credit: Archant

A twenty-one year old has spoken of how local support helped her through her eating disorder following the announcement of further funding to the services.

A £600,000 funding boost has been given to the specialist eating disorders team at Hertfordshire’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) by Herts County Council.

The money will help provide extra staff to help support those suffering with an eating disorder.

An anorexia survivor, Kathryn Tompsett, from London Colney, said that she could not have recovered from the illness without the help of the eating disorders team, in particular an advanced practitioner called Penny Smith.

She added: “She always believed that I would get better and never judged me or was disappointed in me when things didn’t go well. She fought the illness with me and made me feel that we were a team fighting an enemy.”

It was 2009 when her parents, Len and Jane Tompsett, saw a difference in the then 14-year-old Kathryn’s behaviour.

She had told her parents that she wanted to ‘lose a little bit of weight’, but it soon spiralled, and the already slim Katherine dropped to six and a half stone.

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Jane said: “It started with turning down McDonald’s treats and having grilled chicken salad and it just got worse as she lost more and more weight.”

Len added: “She would hide away in her room, shout at me and thump me on the chest. She didn’t want to talk to me and wouldn’t eat if I was at the table.”

Following their concerns, the pair got in touch with CAMHS and Penny visited their home and realised high-achieving Katherine was too ill to go to school.

Len said: “I was saying ‘I’m watching my daughter die before my eyes’.

“It was the worst time. Kathryn was about 43kg (under six and a half stone) and losing her hair and mornings were awful. Jane used to go across the landing to wake her and we’d be thinking ‘please God let her still be alive’.”

Jane continued: “We were scared stiff. She would weigh out all her food and it would take hours to get her to eat or drink a tiny amounts; we had to check her pockets. She would punish herself by walking miles after every meal and the exercise bike was out every day.”

After being threatened with admittance to hospital, Penny gave Kathryn a weekend to follow some strict rules and from then on her support led Kathryn to recover.

She managed to retain her grades and later secured a place at York University, but dropped out after relapsing in her second year due to lack of routine.

Kathryn is now working as a waitress and lives with her partner Pip, having been fully well for a year with the support of Penny once again.

Len said: “Penny saved our daughter’s life, there’s no doubt about it. Things were heading downhill so rapidly and we are so thankful.”

It is estimated that about 150 children and young people are living with an eating disorder across Hertfordshire and not all of them are seeking treatment.

Penny said: “We’re using the extra funding to expand our team so that we can support more families without the long waiting lists. We can do more educational, preventative work with training programmes in school.

“By enhancing our service we can be there to support young people who need us as they move into adulthood.”

If you’re worried about a young relative or yourself visit your GP or go online for more information click here.

CAMHS mental health line is available from 8am to 7pm on 0300 777 0707 or on 01438 843322 from 5pm to 8am. In an emergency dial 999.