A new type of support to help New Zealanders healing from an eating disorder take positive steps towards full recovery has launched.

Canopy Eating Disorders Support Services (Canopy) is New Zealand’s first eating-disorder-specific peer-to-peer support, both online and in person, community-centric service.

It makes practical support affordable and accessible to all Kiwis affected by eating disorders and disordered eating to help them flourish and reclaim their lives.

The demand for support services for affected Kiwis surged during the first COVID lockdown – EDANZ, the charitable organisation offering support and information to parents and carers of those with eating disorders, has experienced four times the number of approaches to their help lines since March this year, compared to the same period last year.

Canopy was founded by Christine Deacon.

Founded by Christine Deacon, who saw the need for a social enterprise that addresses a
gap in the current healthcare landscape, Canopy supports those suffering most.

“Recovery from eating disorders is one hundred percent possible. I’ve spent the past 12 months thoughtfully and carefully creating Canopy in a way that ensures it is helpful, not harmful,” says Christine, a recovered eating disorder sufferer.

“My story is very similar to many people in New Zealand who have suffered an eating
disorder. When I was 16, I found myself at the start of an eight-year struggle with an eating disorder. I reached out for help when I was 18 but I felt that my voice was not heard. I was told by professionals to ‘just eat’, ‘love yourself’ and ‘get over it’. Some even ruled I wasn’t sick enough to warrant care.”

It wasn’t until Christine was studying for a law degree at the University of Auckland that she got the professional help she needed for her illness – but by then it was almost too late.

After a doctor acknowledged she had grave indicators of deterioration she was hospitalised and then went into outpatient care. Now, six years on, Christine has made a full recovery and gone on to travel the world, carve out a successful career in HR and business entrepreneurship, and most recently, found Canopy.

During her personal struggle with disordered eating, Christine was exposed to what she says were clear gaps and opportunities in care services. It propelled her to create systemic, sustainable change for Kiwis. Inspired and supported by ‘sister organisations’ overseas, Christine set up Canopy.

Canopy adopts internationally proven and successful support service models, content and resources from equivalent overseas organisations.

Dr Karen Trollope, Medical Director at Body Brave Canada, one of those organisations,
welcomes the development of Canopy in New Zealand.

“Community-based initiatives like Canopy fill a crucial gap in the recovery journey for those suffering from eating disorders. Research has shown that the early intervention and support that these initiatives can provide improves recovery outcomes,” says Karen.

With harrowing facts showing the severity of the illness – one person dies every hour as a direct result of an eating disorder*, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness** and people with anorexia are 56 times more likely to commit suicide than people without an eating disorder***, Christine says Canopy has arrived at a crucial time.

Canopy’s support services will be run by trained volunteers and include free Cloud Support which will be a secure, confidential and moderated online support messaging function, and Peer2Peer Support with in-person or virtual face-to-face support sessions.
There will also be weekend intensives for busy Kiwis wishing to take part in group sessions run by professionals such as psychotherapists, counsellors and coaches.

“I know first-hand how hard it can be living with an eating disorder. I didn’t have the support I needed in my community at the time, but hopefully with Canopy we are able to give people that don’t have support in their life a sense that they are being looked after and that there is someone they can turn to, even if they feel completely alone,” adds Christine.

Canopy’s support services go live on 1 October 2020. Follow Canopy at @canopy_eds on Instagram for updates or visit www.canopyeds.co.nz.

GET UNDER THE ‘CANOPY’

If you or someone you know could benefit from Canopy’s support services, or want to
volunteer to become a trained supporter, please visit www.canopyeds.co.nz to enrol in the first intake.

If you are a forward-thinking clinician interested in seeing eating disorder support services grow in New Zealand, or a company with wellness objectives and would like to partner with Canopy, please email Canopy today.

*Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016
**Smink, F. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W., 2012
*** Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016

Disclaimer: Canopy is not a professional medical service. It does not replace medical advice for the treatment of eating disorders and disordered eating from certified and registered professionals, such as physicians, psychotherapists and counsellors. Medical emergencies, please call 111.

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