Gemma Oaten reveals her eating disorder almost killed her four times

The actress set up SEED Eating Disorder Support Services with her parents

Eating disorders may be thought of as a physical condition, but they are actually the mental health illness that has the highest mortality rate of any mental health condition, with 20 per cent of people sadly dying as a direct result of their eating disorder or by suicide.

As part of our Mental Health Digital Issue guest-edited by Scarlett Moffatt, actress Gemma Oaten has written a powerful first-person piece detailing her battle with anorexia from the tender age of ten, which almost took her life four times. She is now fully recovered and patron and charity manager of SEED Eating Disorder Support Services which she set up with her parents.

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Scarlett Moffatt stars on our Mental Health Digital Cover

Read Gemma's story below...

When I was ten years old, it felt like my life changed overnight. Little did I know it, my life would also never be the same again and would change forever. That's the devastating thing about eating disorders… they are clever, manipulative, and destructive, never giving you a 'heads up' that they are about to encompass you and try and take your life.

Therefore, early intervention is so key to the treatment and recovery of eating disorders because the longer it is allowed to engulf the person's mind, the harder it is to bring that person back. Just like what happened to me.

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At ten years old my parents took me to the doctors at the earliest possible moment only to be told by the GP that I wasn't low enough in weight to have a problem. Cut to one year later being admitted to a children's adolescent psychiatric unit and given 24 hours to live if I didn't eat or drink.

Thirteen years I lost to the eating disorder which almost killed me four times. During that time my parents vowed that no family should ever go through what we had and set up SEED Eating Disorder Support Services. And because of this selfless act, they not only saved thousands of lives over the last 22 years, but they also saved mine. They talked to me as a human being, their daughter, their little best friend and over time they brought me back.

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An eating disorder is a life-threatening mental health illness that has the highest mortality rate of any other with 20 per cent of those affected losing their life as a direct result of the eating disorder or by taking their own life because the pain of living with the enemy in their mind is hell.

Now I am recovered and living my dreams as an actor alongside many ambitions I often felt out of reach, I use my platform and voice for good. To educate, raise awareness and help those who desperately need us, as I take on the baton from my parents as SEED's CEO, and make sure that all who need us at SEED don't just survive, but thrive!

Anyone reading this who is affected by an eating disorder, either being the person struggling with this cruel illness or those loved ones around them who are struggling and feel helpless, please know this. There is no shame, this isn't your fault, and you matter. Please reach out to You are not alone.

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