Our story - Eating Disorders Victoria
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Our story

Home ~ About us ~ Our story

This page explains our vision, mission and values, our guiding principles, what services we provide and the history of Eating Disorders Victoria. 

Our vision, mission and values

Our mission

The Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria is the primary source of support, information, community education and advocacy for people with eating disorders and their families in Victoria.

We connect those whose lives are affected by eating disorders with the people, services and hope they need for recovery.

Our vision

A future where the incidence, duration and impacts of all eating disorders are reduced and ultimately eradicated.

Our values

These values underpin our interactions with the people around us: Respect, acceptance and hope.

Our guiding principles

EDV’s guiding principles are divided into three parts – evidence-based beliefs about eating disorders; our service philosophy; and our organisational culture.

1. Evidence-based beliefs about eating disorders

The following 16 principles explain our approach to information and support.

1.1 Eating disorders can be overcome – recovery is possible for anyone.

Recovery means different things to different people. We believe that recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one moves beyond the effects of the eating disorder. It is a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, behaviours and skills, so that one can live a satisfying, hopeful, fulfilling life, engaging as fully as possible with one’s family and the community.

1.2 There are many different pathways towards recovery – everyone’s journey is different.

What works for one individual will not necessarily work for all. It may take several attempts to find the right path, and different strategies may be needed at different times along the eating disorder journey. Just as the journey is individual and unique, so is the concept of ‘full recovery’. Only the individual will know when she/he is fully recovered.

1.3 Eating disorders are complex and serious mental disorders that devastate the physical, psychological, social and emotional well-being of the individual.

It is vital to destigmatise eating disorders by helping the community to understand that an eating disorder is NOT an illness of choice, a ploy for attention, a fad or a diet gone wrong.  It is a dangerous, potentially life-threatening mental illness with physical effects.

1.4 The causes of eating disorders are many, complex and varied. No single issue can be blamed for the development of an eating disorder.

While every case is unique, the majority of eating disorder cases can be linked to low self-esteem, body image concerns coupled with an over-emphasis on the importance of body weight and shape, and an attempt to deal with these and other underlying psychological issues by using food (in an unhealthy way, such as dieting) as a mechanism.

1.5 Eating disorders do not discriminate. They can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age, socio-economic status, cultural background or ethnicity.

Eating disorders have been diagnosed in people aged from seven to 70, in boys and men as well as girls and women, and in people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, income levels, jobs and professions. We acknowledge that some people are more susceptible to developing eating disorders than others; these can include teenage girls (particularly those who are anxious or perfectionistic), and people whose careers or professions attach a high degree of importance to a thin or athletic body type (eg athletes, dancers, models).

1.6 While individual cases of eating disorders vary in their degree of severity, no type of eating disorder is more serious than the others.

There is a tendency for the community and media to wrongly assume that anorexia nervosa, which often has the most visible physical symptoms, is the ‘most serious’ type of eating disorder, and that other types of eating disorder are less of a concern. ALL eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, and can result in dangerous and potentially life-threatening thoughts and behaviours. Every case of an eating disorder should be taken seriously and provided with treatment and support.

1.7 It is not possible to tell if someone has an eating disorder based solely on their outward appearance.

Despite the stereotypical portrayals of what an eating disorder looks like in the media, people in all bodies can have an eating disorder. EDV has a weight-inclusive approach to practices that recognises size diversity in eating disorder diagnosis.

1.8 People who are identified and treated early in the course of an eating disorder have the greatest chance of full recovery and are more likely to recover quickly.

While anyone may recover from an eating disorder, the response to treatment is significantly better for individuals who are treated early in the course of their illness – the earlier, the better. For this reason, we encourage people who are concerned about possible signs of an eating disorder NOT to ‘wait and see’, but to seek a professional assessment immediately. A person with possible signs of cancer would not be advised to ‘wait and see’ and nor should a person with a possible eating disorder.

1.9 The majority of people with an eating disorder will benefit from professional treatment.

We know that many people do recover without professional help. However, recovery will generally be quicker and more complete with professional intervention. Therefore we will always encourage people with suspected or known eating disorders to seek professional help. People who find treatment to have been unhelpful will be encouraged not to give up on professional treatment, but to try again with a different practitioner or a different treatment option.

The majority of people with eating disorders will benefit from a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment – ie receiving help from a variety of health professionals practising in different areas, working together.  This may include, for example, a GP, dietitian, psychologist and paediatrician.

1.10 Choice in treatment is essential. There are many different forms of treatment for eating disorders and what works for one individual may not work for another.

Everyone’s experience of an eating disorder is unique and valid and should be acknowledged as such. There is evidence to support certain types of treatment being more effective for some age-groups and/or types of eating disorder. However, due to the limitations of the evidence, the uniqueness of factors contributing to each experience of an eating disorder, and the wide variation in response to treatment, information about treatment options and choice in treatment remains essential.

1.11 Support is as vital as treatment in the recovery process.

Support can come in many forms – family, friends, partners, teachers, community, professional, support groups, telephone, email and online support and self-help.

1.12 Eating disorders are chronic conditions, and people with eating disorders need long-term treatment and support.

With eating disorders, there is no ‘quick fix’. People with eating disorders need treatment and support, not just while they recover physically, but for as long as it takes to recover psychologically and socially. Relapse is a common occurrence, and the reality is that, for some individuals, the need for treatment and support may be life-long. People with eating disorders have a right to expect treatment and support for as long as they need it.

1.13 Connectedness and social inclusion are part of the key to long-term recovery.

People with eating disorders can feel disconnected from their family, peers and friends and become increasingly isolated.  Encouraging sufferers to share their experiences in a safe and supportive environment helps them to gain insight into their illness, reduces isolation, connects them with others who understand, and assists them to feel they still have a place in society.

1.14 Families and carers of a person with an eating disorder require support, information and training.

Caring for a person with an eating disorder can be incredibly challenging, requiring a major commitment from the carer, the use of many new skills and a detailed understanding of the illness.  Just as support, information and training is recognised as vital for health professionals treating people with eating disorders, so, too, it is essential for families and carers.

For many young people diagnosed with anorexia, there is strong evidence to support family-based therapy as the most effective model of treatment. We recognise that family involvement is not possible in all cases of eating disorders, but wherever it is possible, EDV will encourage and support the involvement of family members and/or other carers in the treatment of people with eating disorders.

1.15 Prevention is as important as cure.

EDV believes that many cases of eating disorders CAN be prevented, by reducing societal risk factors for eating disorders, and by promoting behaviours and ways of thinking that protect people who may be at risk of developing an eating disorder. Society needs to be encouraged to embrace the cultural changes that are needed to reduce body dissatisfaction and the pressure to diet; enhance self-esteem and encourage self-acceptance; reduce the pressure to be perfect; celebrate diversity, and reward people for what they are and do, not for what they look like.

1.16 EDV supports and endorses the Worldwide Charter for Action on Eating Disorders.

The Worldwide Chart for Action on Eating Disorders provides for people with eating disorders, and their families and loved ones, a list of their basic rights and reasonable expectations regarding eating disorder treatment and services.

2. Our service philosophy

In addition to embracing our core values of respect, acceptance, and hope, the following seven principles explain our approach to service delivery.

2.1 Free, confidential, non-judgemental

All our support services are free, confidential, non-judgemental, and as flexible and open-ended as possible. (We do, reluctantly, have to charge fees for some education and training services, in order to remain economically viable).

2.2 Participation by choice

Participation in our services is by choice. Service users can decide when and how often they access and participate in services.

2.3 Easy access

Our assistance can be easily accessed, via the Internet, email, telephone and face to face.

2.4 Evidence-based and shared

Our information is reliable, factual, current, evidence based, and there to be shared. We believe in the open-handed sharing of our resources with all organisations whose aims and objectives are compatible with our own.

2.5 Diversity of approaches

Because everyone is different, we aim to use diverse means (eg written, spoken, artistic, interactive) to improve mental health, physical and emotional well-being, social connectedness and quality of life.

2.6 No disadvantage

We will do our best to ensure that disadvantaged groups have access to the organisation’s resources and processes.

2.7 Equality and diversity

We have a commitment to ensuring that our workplace and services shall be free from any form of discrimination.

3. Our organisational culture

The following eight principles underpin the organisational and workplace culture promoted within EDV.

3.1 Respectful and tolerant 

EDV aims to create respectful and tolerant relationships between all staff and volunteers, recognising the value of the diversity in life experiences, personal beliefs and skills of all participants in the organisation.

3.2 Open and responsive

EDV recognises that staff and volunteers can be greatly informed by the experiences and knowledge of each other and the service users. EDV staff and volunteers strive to be open and responsive to constructive feedback and suggestions from each other and from service users.

3.3 Participative

EDV involves participants from all areas (staff, volunteers, board members, service users) in strategic planning, policy formulation and decision making.

3.4 Promoting best practice

EDV strives to develop, promote and apply best practice principles in the workplace.

3.5 A learning environment

EDV promotes an environment where learning and exploration can flourish, and encourages its staff and volunteers to make time for and participate in formal and informal learning opportunities.

3.6 A sustainable environment

EDV is committed to work practices which recognise and seek to reduce the impact of our workplace and activities on the environment.

3.7 Healthy, safe and welcoming

EDV is committed to providing an environment which is safe, accessible, comfortable, nonthreatening and as welcoming as possible.

3.8 Work/life balance

EDV recognises that work/life balance is integral to the welfare and morale of its staff and volunteers, and supports staff and volunteers in finding a good balance between work, personal/family life and community involvement.

What we do

EDV has a unique approach to providing clinical and non-clinical support services to people experiencing an eating disorder and their families, through a blend of qualified professionals and the lived experience of employees and volunteers.

A fresh strategic approach in 2017 re-positioned EDV’s work to be guided under the following pillars:

Information

To address the lack of understanding around eating disorders, we aim to bridge the knowledge gap and provide referral pathways for both consumers and relevant stakeholders in the health sector.

EDV education

We hold workshops, presentations and courses aimed at the early intervention and support of people with eating disorders for primary and secondary school students, teaching staff, primary care professionals, dietitians, fitness professionals, people in the fashion industry, community organisations and the general public.

Website and social media

The EDV website is often the first stop for individuals experiencing eating disorders and their families. It provides comprehensive, reliable and factual information on eating disorders and has helpful tips and advice for everyone — from the person experiencing an eating disorder to concerned friends and family. EDV’s social media channels provides up-to-date information on events, the latest news from the sector and a platform for people to engage with likeminded individuals.

Body Project Australia

In December 2017, EDV partnered with the US based Body Project Collaborative to create the Body Project Australia (BPA). As the first organisation to bring this internationally accredited body acceptance program to Australia, EDV are uniquely placed to oversee the development of this program and to train new facilitators to deliver the program in a first range of school and community settings.

Navigation

To provide individuals and families with the confidence to navigate the treatment system and connect with appropriate services.

The EDV Hub

Staffed by trained volunteers who have a special interest or lived experience with eating disorders, the EDV Hub is a free, confidential phone, online or drop-in service for anyone who wants to talk to someone about an eating disorder and discuss treatment options in Victoria.

GP education

General Practitioners (GPs) are often the first point of call for people who feel they or a loved one may have an eating disorder. EDV provide in-person and online GP training to ensure GPs recognise eating disorders in patients and provide appropriate treatment pathways.

Support and care

To offer a range of support services for anyone affected by eating disorders, as well as engaging with individuals in recovery and providing ongoing support to maintain their recovery.

Psychologist and dietitian services

EDV offers in-house private psychology and dietitian sessions for people experiencing eating disorders and related issues, as well as for the family and friends who are supporting a loved one.

Peer Mentoring Program

EDV’s Peer Mentor Program (PMP) is a unique and effective way to address the high relapse rate for individuals currently in or transitioning from hospital treatment. The program works by pairing participants with mentors who themselves have experienced and recovered from an eating disorder. The mentoring relationship continues for a period of six months, where mentors meet with participants every two weeks to help them work through the everyday challenges of recovery.

Stories of Recovery

Stories of Recovery is a program where our trained ambassadors, who have recovered from an eating disorder or who have cared for someone who has recovered, will come and share their story with others. The aim of Stories of Recovery is to educate and raise awareness of eating disorders and to offer hope and inspiration that recovery is possible for everyone.

Support groups

EDV Support Groups give people affected by an eating disorder the opportunity to draw upon the support, experience and skills of others facing similar issues. EDV groups allow people to discuss and share their experiences, emotions and challenges, and to develop positive strategies in a safe and supportive environment.

Carer workshops

We know that the support families and friends provide to someone in recovery from an eating disorder is very important. We also know that caring for someone with an eating disorder is a huge job and can be very challenging. Our Collaborative Care Skills Workshop (CCSW) is an evidence-based seven-part workshop aimed at improving carers’ wellbeing, coping strategies and problem solving skills.

History of Eating Disorders Victoria

The Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria has been providing information, support and hope to people whose lives are affected by an eating disorder since 1983.

Operating initially as the Anorexia Nervosa Fellowship of Victoria, the organisation has evolved in both name and mission, now supporting people affected by all types of eating disorders.

Below is a summary of the growth and changes that have taken place within the organisation and the field of eating disorders in Australia:

1983: Concerned with the high incidence of eating disorders they were seeing, a group of mental health professionals formed the Anorexia Nervosa Fellowship of Victoria as a sub-committee of the Victorian Association of Mental Health (VAMH). They began operating out of the VAMH premises in Camberwell.

1984: Bulimia nervosa is officially recognised as an eating disorder. The sub-committee becomes the Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa Fellowship of Victoria (ABNFV).

1988: Government funding allows the ABNFV to employ its first paid staff member, responsible for coordinating support services.

1989: Volunteers are recruited to assist with the helpline, a phone service that people can call for information relating to eating disorders.

1991: The ABNFV relocates to its own premises in Glen Iris and becomes an autonomous organisation, no longer operating as part of the Victorian Association of Mental Health.

1992: The ABNFV launches Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa Awareness Week.

1995: National Body Image and Eating Disorders Awareness Week (BIEDAW) is held during the first week of September in partnership with the ABNFV’s sister organisations across Australia.

1996: The ABNFV rolls out a teacher training program, Eating Disorders and Body Image Dissatisfaction, holding workshops in metropolitan and country venues. Additional funding is secured, allowing a second staff member to be employed.

1998: We go digital, setting up the ABNFV website so people can access information about eating disorders online.

2000: Recognising that the classification of eating disorders has moved beyond just anorexia and bulimia, the ABNFV changes its name to The Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria (EDFV).

2004: The Eating Disorders Resource for Secondary Schools is launched, along with a professional development program for school staff in the prevention, identification and early intervention of eating disorders.

2007: The EDFV continues to grow, employing five new staff members over a three-year period. We expand the Helpline services to an online chatroom and message board.

2008: We launch family workshops for people who are caring for someone living with an eating disorder and reveal a new-look website.

2012: To coincide with International No Diet Day, EDV launches our annual awareness and fundraising campaign Feed the Soul at Parliament House with the Minister for Mental Health, The Hon Mary Wooldridge. The campaign aimed to remind people that food and eating is so much more than just what we put in our mouths.

2013: We hire our first in-house psychologist and relocate to new premises in Abbotsford.

2014: A key branch of our services, EDV Education is formalised and launched, offering training programs for schools, people in the fitness industry and specialised GP training.

2017: We deliver two new programs: the Peer Mentoring Program (PMP), the first of its kind in Australia, which pairs a person in recovery from an eating disorder with an EDV employee with lived experience; and Body Project Australia, an early intervention and prevention program for girls aged 14–18, improving body acceptance and preventing the onset of eating disorders.

2018: Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt, along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, announce that, for the first time ever, individuals with severe eating disorders will have access to a comprehensive and subsidised treatment plan through Medicare. We hire our first in-house dietitian and expand our psychology team, reducing wait lists and giving clients more flexibility with appointments.

2019: Victorian Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley announces funding for another year of EDV’s Peer Mentoring Program.

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