QAMH Member of the Month – February 2019

Eating Disorders Queensland is our inaugural Member of the Month!

Each month we will be highlighting the value and diversity of our members and the fantastic work they do in the community mental health sector.

Read on below to learn more about Eating Disorders Queensland, including their history, values and mission. 

Please tell us a little bit about your organisation?
Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ) supports a vibrant community of individuals recovering from an eating disorder, including people with lived experiences, carers and family members. EDQ offers a safe place for people to access a range of services to support their recovery. We understand that individuals, families, carers and loved ones recover at their own pace. We value the important role that medical and psychiatric services can have in recovery from an eating disorder and offer our services as a partner as well as alternative to the medical model, depending on client need.

What are three words to describe your organisation?
• Hope
• Resilience
• Recovery

How/why/when did your organisation get started?
The Eating Issues Centre was founded in 1996 by a group of feminist practitioners who sought to develop alternative approaches to the bio-medical model of working with women with eating issues. Originally auspiced by Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre it became an independent incorporated association. The service was originally called ISIS The Eating Issues Centre after the Egyptian goddess of rebirth, growth and nourishment. In 1993, the Queensland Association for Mental Health established a support group for carers of people suffering from an eating disorder which then became the ‘Eating Disorders Association Incorporated’ (EDA Inc.). In 1994, a decision was made by this group to lobby Queensland Health for funding to establish an Eating Disorders Resource Centre as the demand for information and support for those suffering from and caring for individuals with an eating disorder grew. In 1996, the EDA (Inc) received government funding which aided in the establishment and incorporation of the Eating Disorders Association Resource Centre (EDARC). The EDA Inc began to provide referral, information and support for people living with eating disorders in Queensland and their carers. The Queensland Minister for Health opened the centre in April 1996. In 2014 the EDA and The Eating Issues Centre (formerly Isis) received funding from Queensland Health to provide services to individuals and their carers living with eating disorders. The Eating Disorders Association Inc. worked predominantly with carers providing referral, counselling support, education and training. A merger of the Eating Issues Centre (TEIC) and Eating Disorders Association (EDA) in Brisbane, on 5 October 2018, created the largest community service in Queensland offering support and treatment for individuals living with and recovering from eating disorders, their Carers and loved ones.
The new entity – Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ), based in Toowong – is a state-wide not-for-profit organisation funded by Queensland Health to provide integrated eating disorder support services to Qld individuals and families living with and recovering from eating disorders, their carers and loved ones.

What inspires your work and what sets your organisation apart from everyone else?
Our service is underpinned by a feminist framework which values relationship, openness, transparency and diversity. We value the individual as the expert in their own life and recognise the expertise, strengths and skills they bring to their recovery journey. In recovery we value the process as well as the outcomes and recognise that eating issues are caused by a complex interaction of socio-cultural, familial, biological and individual factors. Our practitioners work collaboratively with individuals – integrating an array of interventions depending on the needs, hopes and goals of the individual. Interventions underpinned by a person-centred approach are inclusive of feminist practice, anti-oppression and a strong social justice perspective. We believe that recovery is absolutely possible.

Where does your organisation provide services? What type of services are offered?
We offer a whole range of services – individual counselling for both individuals and their loved ones and carers, group therapy, peer mentoring, peer support and meal wellbeing. Counselling is available in person at Toowong, or via phone or Skype. We also offer informal ‘Reconnect’ sessions, which are a great way for former or future clients to connect with EDQ in a relaxed setting. We’re also starting to offer state-wide therapeutic groups and workshops, with both Carer and Individual support services scheduled in Toowoomba over the next few months, and program currently being developed for the Cairns region.

How many employees do you have? How many offices, and where are they located?
We have recently expanded our team and now have 11 staff members, as well as three external Medicare rebated practitioners who come in once a week each. That includes a mix of administration staff, experienced Eating Disorder Practitioners, Carer and Family Coaches, psychologists, social workers and most recent addition – a dietitian! We all work out of the one beautiful building at Toowong.

How has your organisation changed over the last few years – and what has driven this change?
We’ve had an exponential transformation over the last few years! As the only funded Eating Disorders NGO by Queensland Health we have seen an increase in our base funding and some extra project funds to help us expand and act on the needs of individuals, carers and families. Clients asked for a safe space around meal support, so we created the Community Table – Recovery Through Connected eating. Carers highlighted the need more ‘hands on’ support, hearing and sharing lived experience stories of Hope and Recovery, we have just launched a Carer Peer Mentor Program.
With the recent merger we are a more streamlined, integrated, innovative and agile organisation to better respond to client’s needs.

Looking forward, what do you see as the main challenges/opportunities for your organisation, and why?
Our biggest challenge is always to deliver services to our clients in our waitlists for counselling, groups, peer mentoring programs and Community Table.
Eating disorders have one of the highest impacts on health-related quality of life of all psychiatric disorders (AIHW, 2007) and carry the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses (Arcelus, Mitchel, Wales and Nielsen, 2011).

Long waitlists therefore create an ongoing ethical quandary, not getting services to people with a life threatening mental health disorder. Recent changes to Medicare Benefits Scheme to improve access and affordability of eating disorder treatments, is wholeheartedly supported by EDQ, and our clients can access the scheme under our new Medicare Arm, which is connected to the service.
However, NGOs, like EDQ, are uniquely positioned to deliver biopsychosocial services to individuals, carers and families. Backed by 22 years expertise providing innovative and interdisciplinary programs driven by client needs, which reduces the significant financial burden of recovery. Hence, a healthily funded NGO sector is still essential to maintain this work.
Clients highlight that it is the holistic, client-based approach, offered by community-based eating disorder services, that motivates and support recovery.

Tell us something about your organisation that most people wouldn’t know?
Our logo is the origami paper crane, which symbolises hope and healing during challenging times.
Adopting the crane as the symbol of recovery, came from clients folding these integrated and layered little paper birds during recovery. Often this activity is used as a mindfulness moment, managing anxiety and creating a visual of their resilient recovery journey.
Our Centre has two beautiful crane mobiles, from ceiling to floor – a beautiful and colourful reminder that recovery is possible.

Contact Details:
Website – www.eatingdisordersqueensland.org.au
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/eatingdisordersqld/
Instagram – eatingdisordersqld
Twitter – @EDQ_ED
Phone – 07 3844 6055