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news: derbyshire charity takes one more step

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Title/Topic: Derbyshire Charity Takes One More Step
Posted On: 6/24/2009
June 24 2009, Derby, England (Derby Telegraph) – Marc Thrasivoulou is testament to the vital role that charity First Steps Derby plays in helping people recover from eating disorders.

Last year, at the height of his eating disorder, the 19-year-old was spending more than two hours a day in the gym and controlling what he ate to such an extent that his weight quickly plummeted.

But with the help and support of First Steps Derby he has made a good recovery.

The charity has just been awarded a grant so it can take on two new members of staff – both of whom have previously used its support services – and Marc is one of them.
He said: “This time last year I was doing my A-levels and was really stressed over them but it was when the exams finished that I started obsessing over food and exercise.
“I started to control what I was eating way too much. In the end I was doing a minimum of two hours in the gym every day, sticking to a strict high protein, low carb diet and eating at specific times.

“I guess it started off because of vanity but it takes over from that. I was in my own little world and I shut myself off from my friends.

“Eventually I realised I had a problem and told my parents.”

Marc was told about First Steps Derby and went to one of the group sessions it runs for people with eating disorders.

The charity provides face-to-face support for up to 70 people a year and offers advice through its website for up to 400 people across Derbyshire.

Marc said: “There were people of all different ages, races and sex, and going there has been a crucial part of my recovery.

“The activities it ran helped to build up my self-esteem again and gave me the chance to talk to people who knew what I was going through.”

First Steps Derby, the only eating disorder support group in the city, was set up by Cathy Cleary in March 2004 after she had battled with bulimia and anorexia for more than 15 years.

She originally ran it from home, before moving to a small office in The Spot, Derby, running a Wednesday night session for young people aged 12 to 25 and a Thursday night group for sufferers, their families and friends. She has now launched a 10-week programme to train volunteers thanks to a £6,000 grant from the European Social Fund.
The new staff are being paid for by a separate undisclosed sum from Volunteer England.

The youngest person to attend the group is 15 years old, the oldest is 68.

People can be referred by a GP or contact the charity themselves through its website, Facebook page or by going to one of its evening sessions.

Jenna Newman, from Derby, started out as a volunteer and has become the charity’s other new member of staff.
The 25-year-old’s battle with eating disorders reached its height while she was studying at university.

“For me it was a way of control,” she said. “I was putting a lot of pressure on myself at university and really wanted to do well. I never looked incredibly underweight throughout my eating disorder. My weight went up and down.”
Jenna, who is also studying for a Masters in drama therapy, developed a number of health problems because of her eating disorder, ranging from panic attacks and palpitations to dental problems.

She said: “When you have an eating disorder any other problems pale in comparison. Things like anorexia and bulimia are a smoke-screen for other problems.”

Jenna and Marc join support worker Danielle Sinclair and another part-time support worker at the charity.
Cathy said she wanted to expand First Steps even more. She said: “Our vision is to have a base where people can drop in, a place that offers support to people with disorders and associated mental health problems and somewhere we can run one-on-one sessions.

“We have enough money to maintain our services, the new cash is paying for the new staff and the 10-week programme, but to be able to expand we will need more cash and do rely on donations and fund-raising.”

To find out more about First Steps Derby, call 01332 367571, drop in at their offices on Thursdays from 4pm to 6pm or visit their website www.first
Group meetings on a Wednesday are from 6.30pm to 8pm at The Space in The Spot and on Thursdays at the Guinness Trust Rooms in Sidney Street.

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