Let’s Talk About It: Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2023

Let’s Talk About It: Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2023

Let’s talk about it: Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2023
Organised by the charity BEAT, National Eating Disorder Awareness Week highlighted the realities of living with an eating disorder. This year it took place on the 27th February – 5th March 2023.

Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. Throughout the week, we shared information and tips to support parents and carers on the many eating disorders affecting children and young people’s mental health.

What is an eating disorder?

Children’s mental health has never been so critical, this week offered a vital opportunity to reflect on how we can support young people.

Last year, NHS Digital found 12.9% of 11 to 16 year olds and 60.3% of 17 to 19 year olds had possible eating problems but what is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a mental health condition where you use the control of food to cope with feelings and other situations. Unhealthy eating behaviours may include eating too much or too little or worrying about your weight or body shape.

Anyone can get an eating disorder, but teenagers between 13 and 17 are mostly affected. Are you supporting a child with an eating disorder or need support yourself? Watch the videos below to see four ways you can support a child or young person with an eating disorder.

As part of the Mind of the Matter series, Professor Ulrike Schmidt from King’s College London, discussed how eating disorders have manifested in groups of people over the pandemic, exposed health inequalities and a disparity in access to treatment – you can find the full video below.

With treatment, most people can recover from an eating disorder. Cassius, an ex-service user, shared his story of recovery adding that “Recovery is more than possible. It happened, and it’s made me who I am today.”

What are the different types of eating disorders?

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia can cause severe physical problems because of the effects of starvation on the body. If you’re worried about a child or young person’s eating habits, weight or shape – the best way forward is to get help and support early.


Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

There are a number of ways that binge eating disorder can impact a young person’s life. Often (though not always) it can cause weight gain, and in terms of physical health, can be associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.



There are several reasons that someone might develop bulimia, and many factors that can contribute but know that just being there for them can also play a crucial role in helping them to get better. If you’re worried about someone you know, even if only some of the signs are present, you should still seek help immediately, as this gives the best chance of recovery.

What is EDIFY?

EDIFY (Eating Disorders: Delineating Illness and Recovery Trajectories to Inform Personalised Prevention and Early Intervention in Young People) is a four year project, led by researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s which aims to revolutionise how eating disorders are perceived, prevented and treated in young people.

By combining the arts and science, researchers will build a detailed picture of why young people develop eating disorders, how they progress over time and what we can do to help.

The EDIFY project, involving over 1000 participants, ensures young people with lived experience of eating disorders are at the heart of the project, serving as advisors and co-producers throughout.

Through this work we will expand professional and public perceptions of eating disorders, share under-represented voices and encourage advances in policy and clinical practice.

In their PaperMate series, the EDIFY team speak to eating disorders researchers about recent projects, such as the experiences of men and the impact of COVID.

What is FREED?

FREED is the First episode Rapid Early intervention for Eating Disorders service for 16 to 25-year-olds who have had an eating disorder for three years or less.

Young people getting help for their eating disorder through FREED are given rapid access to specialised treatment which gives special attention to challenges we know young people face during these years of their life, and in the early stages of an eating disorder.

Originally developed at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and King’s IoPPN, the Health Innovation Network and Academic Health Science Network have since supported Mental Health Trusts across the country to adopt FREED. More than 2,000 young people nationally have benefitted from the service since 2020, with an initial evaluation suggesting FREED can reduce waiting times by 32% for assessment and 41% for treatment

Most recently, in her BBC documentary Zara McDermott: Disordered Eating, Zara met with our experts and service users at FREED to explore disordered eating. Filming took place at Maudsley Hospital in Summer 2022.

The new FREED-Mobile study, which is now recruiting, is exploring whether online resources could help young people in their decision to seek support for eating difficulties to help facilitate early intervention.

We want to encourage everyone who thinks they may have an eating disorder to seek help, as it is possible to get better. Wherever someone may be on their journey, there is hope and help out there.  Thank you to Zara for coming to visit us and spending time with people who have used our services.

Giulia Di Clemente and Charmaine Kilonzo

Senior Psychologist and Psychology Practitioner, Eating Disorders Service

External Support:

Beat – Eating Disorders: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/


Kooth: https://www.kooth.com/


First Steps: https://firststepsed.co.uk/



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Let’s Connect: Children’s Mental Health Week 2023

Let’s Connect: Children’s Mental Health Week 2023

Let’s Connect: Children’s Mental Health Week 2023

Children’s Mental Health Week is an annual event led by Place2Be which is dedicated to raising awareness about children and young people’s mental health. This year it took place on the 6th – 12th February 2023.

a young girl holding a leaf

Throughout the week, the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London shared some of the world-leading research happening across the Institute to raise awareness for some of the risk and protective factors associated with childhood mental health difficulties.

Day 1: Partnering for better children’s mental health

Children’s mental health has never been so critical. Before the pandemic, one in nine children had a probable mental health disorder. In 2022, this figure was at one in six and, for young people aged 17-19, one in four. Children’s Mental Health Week offers an important opportunity to reflect on what’s being done to support young people, and what we can do better.

The King’s Maudsley Partnership for Children and Young People brings together clinical and academic excellence in a unique collaboration between the UK’s largest NHS provider of specialist CAMHS services, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and the leading child and adolescent mental health research team in Europe at King’s College London – supported by the Maudsley Charity and leading philanthropists.

The partnership, which will be based at the new Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People, will allow clinicians and researchers to collaborate even more closely to find new ways to predict, prevent and treat mental health disorders. This will enable us to translate research into practical treatments to benefit young people locally, nationally and across the globe in the shortest possible time.

Day 2: Protecting young people’s wellbeing on social media

Although smartphones are useful, there is concern about their effect on mental health and wellbeing. For example, studies have found that night-time use is related to poor sleep as well as mood changes. However, we don’t know exactly how social media and smartphone use can impact on mental health, including self-harm, nor do we know how usage can change in association with changes in mental health.

The 3S-YP study (Social Media, Smartphone Use and Self-Harm In Young People) aims to understand how social media and smartphone use are associated with changes in mental health and wellbeing in young people over the course of a year. The findings will help us learn when and what type of support would be useful for young people who are experiencing difficulties.

The study is led by Dr Rina Dutta in partnership with YoungMinds and funded by the Medical Research Council and Medical Research Foundation.

For Safer Internet Day and Children’s Mental Health Week, Dr Dutta shares her top three tips for young people to protect their wellbeing while using social media:

  1. Think about where you charge your devices. Charge them outside your bedroom to avoid the temptation to use them at night.
  2. Diversify your social media & keep communication open. Use a diverse range of platforms. Parents and young people should try to have conversations about what those platforms are and why they are appealing.
  3. Balance social media use with other everyday things. Don’t forget to go outdoors, play sports or cook!

Learn more about the 3S-YP study and hear Dr Rina Dutta’s top tips for young people in the video below:

Day 3: How does childhood social isolation impact mental health?

Katie Thompson, PhD Student at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at King’s, explains how social isolation levels can vary across childhood, and discusses which children are most at risk of developing poor mental health later in life.

Her research, published in JCPP Advances last May, found that socially isolated children are more likely to experience ADHD symptoms and loneliness as young adults despite other risk factors in childhood.

Using data from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, researchers examined social isolation through childhood and identified three types of developmental progression which were associated with emotional and behavioural challenges before and after the onset of isolation.

The study revealed that the experience of social isolation in childhood was associated with a range of difficulties in adulthood, even when the isolation itself had reduced. The findings suggest that childhood social isolation can indicate co-occurring mental health difficulties, which can be used to guide intervention in young people.

Watch the video below to learn more about Katie’s research, and what she’s currently working on:

Day 4: Listening to the voices of neurodivergent young people

Dr Myrofora Kakoulidou, Post-Docoral Researcher at the IoPPN, shared some of the work she is doing on the ‘My Emotions and Me’ sub-stream of the RE-STAR project (Regulating Emotions – Strengthening Adolescent Resilience). Through her research, Dr Kakoulidou is trying to understand what factors contribute to young people’s learning and wellbeing to help develop evidence-based school interventions.

RE-STAR is a four-year, interdisciplinary programme, led by Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke, which brings together science and arts to understand emotional difficulties in neurodivergent young people in order to help develop effective support.

Many young people with ADHD and autistic traits develop depression during adolescence – but we currently don’t know which individuals are at risk, what underlying processes increase that risk or, perhaps most importantly, the best way to intervene to increase resilience to reduce that risk.

RE-STAR aims to address these gaps by testing the specific role of emotion regulation difficulties, commonly observed in young people with neuroatypicalities, in driving developmental pathways to depression.

For decades, the voices of neurodivergent young people have been neglected. RE-STAR puts young people with ADHD and autism at the heart of research.”

Dr Myrofora Kakoulidou

Post-Doctoral Researcher at King's IoPPN

Find out more about Dr Myrofora Kakoulidou’s work on the RE-STAR project:

Day 5: How can fathers impact children’s mental health?

Thirty years ago, fathers spent just 15-30 minutes a day with their children. Today, it is more like two hours. However, fathers’ increasing involvement with their children is not always well represented in developmental research and family policy. With changes in family roles, fathers may have a crucial role to play in improving child wellbeing. Alex Martin, Research Associate at the IoPPN, explores some of her research in this area and explains the protective role fathers can have in her Children’s Mental Health Week blog.

Her team at the Developmental Psychopathology Lab investigated whether the relationships between fathers and their partners (father-mother relationship), and fathers and their children (father-child relationship), can reduce the risk of adverse mental health outcomes in children when mothers are experiencing postnatal depression symptoms.

They found both the father-mother and the father-child relationships were important; when both relationships were strong, risk of emotional and behavioural outcomes in children was reduced by around 10%. But what do these findings mean? Read more about Alex’s research, the role of father’s in child wellbeing, and what needs to be done to improve children’s mental health in her blog.

Understanding very early brain development with the Brain Imaging in Babies Study

Did you know that in the first year of life your brain triples in size?

The Brain Imaging in Babies Study (BIBS) aims to improve understanding of how a baby’s brain develops from before birth, up until 3-4 years of age. Working with children from a variety of backgrounds and communities, they use a combination of state-of-the-art diagnostic tools such as MRI scans alongside traditional behavioural assessments to capture the earliest information on infant brain development.

The BIBS team are focusing on how brains develop in babies who go on to have conditions such as autism spectrum conditions (ASC) and ADHD, and how different factors might influence brain development, such as levels of vitamin D, stress and infections (such as COVID-19) in mothers. To date, they have recruited 470 families, and aim to collect data at the very beginning of children’s lives. They have conducted 21 fetal scans, 234 neonatal scans and 128 six month scans.

The study is being co-led by Professor Grainne McAlonan, Theme Lead for Child Mental Health and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the NIHR Maudsley BRC and Professor of Translational Neuroscience at the IoPPN. It is part of the EU-AIMS project – the largest mental health study in Europe.

Watch a short video about the project below:

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We need more than ambulances to help kids’ mental health in the UK

We need more than ambulances to help kids’ mental health in the UK

We need more than ambulances to help kids’ mental health in the UK

Children’s mental heath has never been so critical, in the next five years, 1.5 million childlren will need new support with their mental health.

a young girl holding a leaf

Our Interim Partnership Director, Professor Emily Simonoff, discusses how clinicians and academics will work together to deliver effective, timely and inclusive mental health care for those who need it most in the new Pears Maudsley Centre when it opens in 2024.

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Where to get help in a mental health crisis

Where to get help in a mental health crisis

Where to get help in a mental health crisis

For some people, Christmas can be a joyous occasion but for many, the festive period can welcome unwanted feelings of stress and discomfort, which in turn can have a detrimental effect on mental health.

Members of the South London and Maudsley CAMHS team

Many situations could trigger a mental health crisis in any young person. Around this time of year, it can range from a change in routine, loneliness, overwhelming amounts of pressure, a recent bereavement, and other scenarios.

A mental health crisis means different things to different people. You may feel your child’s mental health has been getting worse over time or that something has happened to make them feel this way. Young people that struggle with their mental health often have more difficulty and react differently to triggering situations.

In these circumstances, there are times when you need urgent suppor1t. It can be overwhelming, and you may feel unable to cope. No matter what your situation is, we are here to help.

How do I know if my child is having a mental health crisis?

There are several signs your child may be experiencing a mental health crisis, these can include:

  • They might want to hurt themselves, or someone else
  • They might hear voices
  • They might see things that are not real
  • They might think people are watching them or trying to hurt them
  • Making threats to others or themselves
  • Feeling low
  • Suffering from intrusive thoughts

This list above contains many but not all of the possible signs that your child may be experiencing a crisis. It is best to follow your instincts. If you feel your child is behaving much differently than normal and the situation seems like it is getting out of control, then your child is most likely experiencing a crisis.

What do I do if I suspect my child is having a mental health crisis?

Once you have identified that your child could be having a mental health crisis, you may want to consider the following questions:

  1. Do you feel your child is in immediate danger to themselves or others?
  2. Can you handle the situation yourself or do you need help?
  3. If you need help- what type of help do you need and from who?

If the answer to question one is yes, then please call for help immediately. We can offer telephone advice, support, or crisis counselling for young people concerned about a deterioration in their mental health. We also support parents and carers who are concerned about a young person.

  • For South London and Maudsley CAMHS support, out-of-hours call the Crisis line on 020 3228 5980.
  • Monday to Friday from 5 pm to 11 pm
  • Weekends and Bank Holidays from 9 am to 11 pm

Opening Times over the Christmas holidays are 9 am to 11 pm on the following days:

  • 24th December (Christmas Eve)
  • 25th December (Christmas Day)
  • 26th December (Boxing Day)
  • 27th December
  • 31st December (New Years’ Eve)
  • 1st January (New Years’ Day)

Who do I call when the CAMHS Crisis Line is closed?

The 24hr Mental Health Crisis Line supports children and young people when the CAMHS Crisis Line is closed:

  • Lewisham, Lambeth, Croydon, and Southwark call South London and Maudsley services on 0800 731 2864
  • Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton, and Wandsworth call South West London and St George’ services on 0800 028 8000
  • Greenwich, Bexley, and Bromley call Oxleas services on 0800 330 8590

What do I do if I am unable to keep people safe?

If you are with someone who has attempted suicide, call 999 and stay with them until the ambulance arrives.

What if I’m unsure whether my child needs help?

If you are not sure, it could help to have a conversation with the young person you’re concerned about. We understand that having this conversation with your child is not an easy thing to do. It can be terrifying and overwhelming. Here are some steps and tips below to help you start the conversation.

  1. Tell your child what you have observed that is worrying you
  2. Let them know you are here for them, and you want to help
  3. Ask them as calmly and directly to explain how they’re feeling – just listen
  4. If they are not willing to talk, please do not force them
  5. Do not leave them alone if you feel they are at immediate risk
  6. If your child is not in immediate danger, you should still seek assistance

For the CAMHS crisis line, call 020 3228 5980 during the hours above, or call 111 www.111.nhs.uk

How can I calm the situation down?

If your child has a safety plan, follow any planned strategies you have in place. If you do not yet have a safety plan, try any strategies you feel may be effective in this situation. The intensity of the situation can cause us to project our fears or opinions so do your best to stay calm.

Keep in mind that, your child may be frightened by the feelings they are experiencing. Symptoms such as suspiciousness or distorted thinking can cause your child to be fearful and not trust other people – even you.

You may also want to consider some of the following tips to help de-escalate the situation:

  • Try to not raise your voice or talk too fast
  • Try not to challenge your child even if what they are saying seems unreasonable to you
  • Try to use positive words or phrases
  • Stay with your child but try not to restrict their movement
  • Listen actively and try to give positive support and reassurance
  • Ask simple questions and repeat them if necessary
  • Try not to take your child’s actions or comments personally
  • Don’t handle the crisis alone if you have people who can support you
  • Try to remove all sharp and dangerous objects from your child’s room and the home that might be thrown during a rage or used to harm themselves
  • If you care for more than one child, it could be beneficial to have a plan and a safe place for other children to go when a crisis occurs, if available to you

If you’re worried about a young person’s mental health, we can support you in the following ways:

  • If you need support call the CAMHS Crisis Line on 020 3228 5980 or South London & Maudsley’s 24hrs Mental Health Crisis Line on 0800 731 2864
  • If you are with someone who has attempted suicide, call 999 and stay with them until the ambulance arrives

Extra help

You can also get support from the following places:


Childline offers a free confidential helpline for children and young people in distress and offers support from counsellors online. Call 0800 1111, or get in touch via www.childline.org.uk


Shout is a 24-hour text service for anyone in crisis or struggling to cope. Text Shout at 85258, or visit www.giveusashout.org


24-hour confidential emotional support for people experiencing distress, call 116 123.

Kooth online counselling service

A free, safe, and anonymous support online wellbeing community is available at www.kooth.com

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International Stress Awareness Week

International Stress Awareness Week

International Stress Awareness Week

When you’re a parent or a carer, it’s just as important to take care of your own needs in order to be able to support others. That is why across the week, for International Stress Awareness Week, we brought you advice from our renowned clinicians and academics, to demonstrate the importance of self-care. Scroll through our summary.

a young girl holding a leaf

Coping with stress:

Millions of parents and carers experience stress. It can be damaging to our mental health and wellbeing. It’s important that you take care of your own needs too or you’ll will have no resources left to look after your children’s needs.

Remember, you are not alone. Listen to supportive parents talk about dealing with their stress. ⬇

Keeping Calm:

Keeping calm when your kids act up is good for you and your child’s mental health. Sounds simple, but we know it’s not always easy.

In this video, Romesh Ranganathan offers some supportive tips for when things get stressful. ⬇

Long day? Need help refocusing?

In this next video, we explore the benefits of taking five minutes to practise box breathing.

Box breathing is a powerful but simple relaxation technique that can help clear the mind, relax the body, and improve focus.


Practising mindfulness can help bring your awareness to the present moment taking your attention away from those daily stresses and worries. In this video, we explore how a daily task such as cooking can help relieve stress.

Colouring isn’t just for children! It can be a helpful way to de-stress and focus.

Yoga encourages mental and physical relaxation which can help reduce stress levels and anxiety. You can use yoga to clear your mind using your kitchen counter or desk.

Taking a break:

Our final tip for parents and carers – and it’s a simple one! Take 10 – It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Take a break, clear your mind and start again.

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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

The clocks going back have signalled the start of autumn / winter. While it’s common to be affected by the change of seasons, many experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Here are some evidence-based ways you can support yourself and your child over the coming months.

a young girl holding a leaf

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.

SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter. A few people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter.

What causes SAD?

The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it’s often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days.

The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the:

  • Production of melatonin – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels
  • Production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression
  • Body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) – your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up, so lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to symptoms of SAD

It’s also possible that some people are more vulnerable to SAD as a result of their genes, as some cases appear to run in families.

Here are some ways to support you or your child through the next couple of months:

Keep Cool:

Professor Andrea Danese collaborated with young people to create KeepCool, a series of educational videos designed to give young people a platform to share their experiences of difficult emotions and discuss how they cope with them.

KeepCool focuses on fundamental emotions like anxietysadness, and anger rather than psychiatric disorders.


Spend time in nature:

Spending time in nature can help improve your mood and wellbeing Last week, research from the Urban Mind Project

found that seeing or hearing birds is linked with an improvement in mental wellbeing that can last up to 8 hours.


Going with the flow:

Futher research from the Urban Mind Project, published last month, found that there was a link between spending time by canals and rivers and feeling happy and healthy. 


Music for the mind:

Professor Sally Marlow is the BBC’s first researcher in residence where she is exploring ideas around mental health, music, arts & creativity. For World Mental Health Day 2022, she produced a mood-boosting mixtape in collaboration with BBC Radio 3. 

Talking therapy:

There are options for talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling

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