'Catastrophic rise' in the number of people seeking help with eating disorders since the start of the first lockdown

Gemma Oaten: Raising awareness of help for those with eating disorders Credit: ITV Yorkshire

Former Emmerdale actress Gemma Oaten is helping to raise awareness of what has been described as the "catastrophic rise" in the number of people seeking help with eating disorders since the start of the first lockdown. 

Gemma, who struggled with an eating disorder herself from the age of 10, now runs the support charity SEED and says she's shocked to hear the number of referrals to them has increased by nearly 70% and that many of those in desperate need of help are as young as 10.

Gemma Oaten as a young Emmerdale actress Credit: ITV Yorkshire

The picture below was taken when Gemma was 19 and just before she had a heart attack - it was the fourth time anorexia almost claimed her life.

Gemma at 19 - shortly before she had a heart attack Credit: Gemma Oaten

Now Gemma runs Hull based eating dissorder support service SEED which has seen a staggering increase in the number of referrals over the past year - and a 68% increase in the 10 to 19 year olds coming to them for help.

Over the past year visits to SEED's website have increased by 145%. There's been a 56% rise in referrals to the charity and a 109% increase in people searching for help aged 30 to 39.

The figures speak for themselves - and eating disorder services are 'at the front of the queue' for extra funding announced recently for mental health needs, according to the Chief Executive of the NHS in England, Sir Simon Stevens

Victoria Whittam has been speaking to Gemma and we must warn you her story shows pictures of how anorexia physically affected one woman. You may find some of the images upsetting.

For more information on the help and support offered by the charity SEED click here.

If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, the following links can provide support and useful advice: