During a Bupa training course for working in care, a mother shared her story of what made her choose such a demanding vocation – her daughter.

Ms Leefield gave us insight into her continuing struggle with her daughter, Amber, and the surrounding framework that has failed to protect them both.

Amber has suffered an eating disorder since she was 14 and it has since, only continued to spiral out of control. At the age of 29, she has been sectioned four times but let out every time despite not being fit to leave. She has been in numerous hospitals due to suffering from debilitating side effects of extreme binge eating – including heart complications and osteoporosis. Additionally, she has been put on the adult risk list, which has been described as ‘ineffective’ by her mother from keeping her safe.  

Leefield tried to get her daughter sectioned again on the grounds that ‘she is unsafe because she is causing harm to herself’. However, due to the ‘limited beds’ available from underfunding, ‘[hospitals] don’t want to section her because she says she doesn’t want to get better’. This, in addition to her age meeting the requirements of independence from parent intervention has resulted in her mother feeling helpless to protect her daughter.

Without intervention from government funded programmes, Leefield has had to take matters into her own hands, looking after her daughter herself because ‘the system has failed her’. She described many incidents during this period such as when the pressure built up so much under her watch that Amber tried to pull a knife on her.

Currently, Leefield is trying for power of attorney which grants her more rights over protecting Amber. Since Amber is over the age of 18, Leefield is unable to intervene in her financial decisions resulting in Amber being approximately £10,000 in debt from her excessive food deliveries and restaurants orders to fuel her binge eating disorder. Leefield described how she tried to contact the bank to stop giving her access to her accounts but failed to do so without authorisation from Amber herself. At present, she can only plead with restaurant staff and food delivery companies not to feed her daughter knowing how it will continue to destroy her physical and phycological health, as well as dig her deeper into irrecoverable debt.

She will soon be taking her story to Channel 4 to raise awareness and build up a case on giving more rights to family members with children that have mental health issues.

If anyone is struggling with mental health issues there is a range of help available for young people. 

https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/ has a website dedicated to giving information and support including a helpline for people struggling with eating disorders.