A BIRCHWOOD-based helpline for those suffering from eating disorders was visited by the shadow minister for mental health today, Monday.

Paula Sherriff MP, visited the charity Beat, to speak to people about their experience of eating disorders.

She met staff at the Beat helpline, who explained how they offer advice and encouragement to people with eating disorders and their friends and families, through telephone, email, social media and online webchat services.

Beat also runs online peer support groups where people can talk to others with similar experiences.

Ambassador Nicole Dorrington, spoke to the MP about her experience of an eating disorder.

She said: “Suffering from an eating disorder has a huge impact on every aspect of your life, leading to difficulties in relationships with family members and friends, many wonderful opportunities being missed in your education, career and social life, and precious years going by that you will never get back.

“It can be really hard to find the courage to seek help".

The 24-year-old added: “It's really great to meet and talk to Paula Sheriff about improvements within healthcare so sufferers can receive the treatment they need and deserve as quickly as possible.”

An estimated 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from eating disorders, serious mental illnesses that include binge eating disorder, bulimia, anorexia and other types.

Paula Sherriff MP said: “It was great to have the opportunity to visit the eating disorder charity, Beat, at their helpline centre in Warrington.

"Beat work tirelessly to break down the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding eating disorders, and to raise awareness so more people will know to seek help earlier.

"They provide support to thousands each year, and I am so grateful for their amazing work.

“During the visit, we discussed how early intervention is vital if treatment for eating disorders is to be successful and sustainable.

"Much more must be done, both to increase awareness and to improve access to treatments.”

Beat’s director of external affairs Tom Quinn said: “It is brilliant to see Paula Sherriff helping to raise awareness of eating disorders and working to ensure more people get help sooner. We look forward to working with politicians like Paula from all parties to achieve much-needed improvements in access to care, especially for adults.

“Eating disorders have some of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness, but there is still significant stigma and misunderstanding around them.

"It takes great courage to speak about an eating disorder, but the sooner someone gets treatment, the better their chances of a rapid recovery, and Beat’s helpline is there to support anyone affected.”