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Covid leaves girl, 15, battling life-threatening anorexia

Written by on 15/10/2020

An anguished father has spoken out about the devastating impact that lockdown has had on his teenage daughter.

He said that the national Covid-19 lockdown led to the potentially-deadly eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, “gripping” his 15-year-old daughter.

The man, who does not want to be named to protect his daughter’s identity, said that her condition has “just ripped the family apart”.

And he is convinced that this would not have happened if it were not for the six-month lockdown in March.

He told South Yorkshire Live: “My wife was working from home, her sister was working from home and I was working out of the house, so she would come downstairs and do a bit of housework for us.

“We’ve got a running machine in our garage so she said that for half an hour a day she’d use it just to offset some boredom, but then it turned into an hour a day, then an hour and a half a day and then we noticed her meals getting less.”

He said that this was “all just through boredom” but, before long, the life-threatening condition had “got a grip of her”.

“They say that the Devil makes work for idle hands and I’m 120 percent convinced that this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for lockdown”, her father said.

He added: “She usually keeps busy, but through sheer boredom and nothing to do this has just got a grip of her and it’s a nightmare. There’s no quick way out of it now and it’s just ripped the family apart.”

The family had been monitoring her behaviour for around three months, before it became apparent that something was dangerously wrong.

“We kept monitoring it to the point of doing the worst thing that I’ve ever had to do in my life, which was force her into the car to go to hospital”, her father said.

Heartbreakingly, his daughter’s condition became so bad that she was admitted to Sheffield Children’s Hospital for 17 days and was in intensive care with hypothermia.

Now, she risks being readmitted for another month if she has not hit her recovery targets.

Her father said: “It’s got a grip of the family, she used to exercise in secret when she came out of hospital and we have to make sure she eats her snacks because she’s got a strict diet now.

“It’s a constant, constant battle because she thinks we’re looking over her and it ends up in arguments. We’re back to like having a five or six year old, we have to make sure somebody’s here all the time and my wife has devoted her life to it.”

He said that, luckily, his wife’s job has been very understanding and they allow her to work early in the morning so that she can have the afternoon off to pick her daughter up from school – as she can not do full days at school, five days a week like the other children.

“If my wife worked a ‘normal’ shift type job, I don’t know what we’d have done, but that impact now is that my wife doesn’t mix with anybody, she’s got nothing to look forward to.

“We’re housebound to a degree, though we go to Meadowhall and try to do bits but our daughter can only walk so far a day because she’s not allowed to burn calories.”

He said that the illness has completely turned family life on its head, as they have had to get used to new routines.

“When you do something – like me and you, naturally when we go for a run our natural instinct is to go to the cupboard and have a bit of fruit or a chocolate bar after –  but with her, we have to do that before we do anything.

“So, it’s like “if we go to Meadowhall, then you have to have this to eat first” – you’re starting the day off with something like “have a banana” and it just escalates and causes arguments.”

The family have been told that it will take years for her to fully recover and her dad is now living in fear of a tier three lockdown in Sheffield, which would be catastrophic for her recovery.

He said: “If we went into tier three she has to fill her day up with things mentally, so every day it’s like ‘what are we doing today?’ and if we go into lockdown again and can’t do anything and we’re stuck in the house?”

But he said that he feels let down by the government who do not consider these familial impacts when they are deciding how to manage the Covid-19 restrictions.

“We’d never be used in a debate where they ask: but what about this type of family?” He said.

Where to get help if you’re struggling

You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help.

Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email jo@samaritans.org, in confidence

Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill

Platform 1 men’s community group: Support for issues including mental health problems and addiction recovery. Visit the website or call 01484 421143.

Andy’s Man Club: info@andysmanclub.co.uk

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141

Mind: A charity offering support and advice for people with mental health problems.

Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit

Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. There’s a website and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58

MindOut: Provide support and advice on mental health for members of LGBTQ communities. Phone 01273 234839

He is angry that schools were forced to close for so long, because he said that this would not have happened to his daughter if she had been at school.

He said: “It 100 percent played a part in it, I can’t see how it would have gotten to this otherwise, it wouldn’t have because she’d have been at school.

“She had a brilliant childhood up to then; loads of friends and she didn’t stay in the house for two minutes, she used to go round to her friends.”

But lockdown has changed all that and he said that she “doesn’t smile much” and cannot even get excited for Christmas.

“I’ve offered to redecorate her bedroom – she’s not excited or anything”, her dad said.

At the moment, her mum and dad are “cherry picking” her lessons – with PE an obvious eviction from her schedule.

Her dad said: “Maths, English and science we try to get her to as many of those lessons as we can. We’re hoping that, come spring or summer, we’ve got to get to the stage where she thinks for herself and she doesn’t have to stick to a regime or a plan.”