Culture

The Government Is Shutting Down Australia’s Only Dedicated Eating Disorder Support Service

The Butterfly Foundation is expected to close down within the year.

Today it’s been announced that The Butterfly Foundation, Australia’s only full-time support service for people struggling with eating disorders, will be closed in the next 12 months. The Federal Government has withdrawn funding to the foundation, which has offered phone and web support to sufferers of anorexia and bulimia for 13 years.

The Butterfly Foundation’s chief executive, Christine Morgan, said that their helpline currently assists more than 1,000 people per month. “To be honest, it fills me with horror because at the moment, this is the only national dedicated service for people with eating disorders,” she said.

The idea is that the Federal Government is working towards creating a ‘centralised’ online gateway for online mental health services, which is concerning because not all mental illnesses can be treated and supported in the same way. Creating specialised services like The Butterfly Foundation means that practitioners can afford to spend hours with patients in specially tailored systems.

In Australia, more than one million people suffer from eating disorders. Anorexia still has the highest death rate of any mental illness (this is due to both physical causes and the fact that a person with anorexia is 32 times more likely to commit suicide). Given the difficult and delicate nature of treating eating disorders, there is a risk that this new centralised system could scare away sufferers from getting help—as it is, only 30 percent of people with eating disorders actually access treatment.

Apparently 20 more online mental health services, including Lifeline and SANE Australia, also face an uncertain future, but some organisations are working with the government in developing the new digital platform.

If you or anyone you know suffers from an eating disorder, you can contact The Butterfly Foundation on their support line at 1800 33 4673 or email them here