An evaluation of a programme which aims to help families affected by eating disorders has shown that it has been successful at providing support and education to those struggling to support loved ones.
The PiLaR programme has been delivered in Ireland since 2014 and to date, over 600 family members and friends have attended the four-week programme, which is free of charge.
Based on the idea of peer-led resilience, the programme was developed by Bodywhys (the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland) in collaboration with the HSE National Clinical Programmes for Eating Disorders.
The independent evaluation of PiLaR was carried out by a team from University College Dublin (UCD), who worked with service users, clinicians, family members and friends.
It found that the programme is a valued source of information and support for those who are supporting a loved one with an eating disorder.
"The programme succeeds in creating an open and supportive environment for people to ask questions and deepen their understanding," the evaluation noted.
According to Dr Sara McDevitt, national clinical lead for eating disorders with the HSE, providing adequate support to everyone affected by eating disorders is essential, ‘and programmes like PiLaR meet that need'.
"We were delighted that UCD agreed to partner with us and Bodywhys on this evaluation, which highlights that caring for a loved one with an eating disorder impacts on family and friends' mental health.
"This report also gives us some solid recommendations on how we can continue to develop PiLaR. I'm confident we will continue to support research and evaluation in this area to further improve how we meet service needs for the whole family," she commented.
Meanwhile, according to Harriet Parsons, training and development manager with Bodywhys, this evaluation shows how important programmes like this are.
"PiLaR provides a space for family members and supporters to come together to both learn about eating disorders and how to cope with someone trying to recover. It is important that clinical services and the support organisation Bodywhys, continue to work together in order to improve services and supports," she said.
PiLaR was first delivered in Limerick and Cork in 2014 and since then, has been delivered more than 20 times in 15 different locations. A core value of the programme is that it is free to attend and is open to all.
The evaluation of the PiLaR programme can be read here. For more information on the programme, including how to take part, click here
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