“She had so much to live for” - father of Felicity Jemmett who died from anorexia urges others to seek help early
PUBLISHED: 15:50 20 September 2017 | UPDATED: 07:57 21 September 2017
The father of a 26-year-old woman who died from anorexia has urged others to seek help early to save their lives.
Felicity Jemmett, of Dereham, died at home on February 21, eight years after the condition first manifested itself.
Today her family said the UEA graduate had “so much to live for”, with an exceptional musical talent and was “exceedingly intelligent”.
Doctors became increasingly concerned for Felicity during 2016 and attempted to section her under the Mental Health Act.
Her GP, Dr Abigail Brun, told her inquest without medical intervention she would “likely die” and accused her father of “colluding” with her anorexia.
The prospect of detention, according to her father, Richard, “affected her eating” with stress and made the condition worse.
“It would be like putting her in a prison and that scared her,” he said. “This is an argument we put to the doctors for the last 12 months. The more they harassed her the higher her stress levels go which has the opposite effect to making her want to eat.
“As a father what else am I supposed to do than support my daughter?”
The first symptoms emerged in 2009 when Felicity was on a gap year in Dubai. She refused to eat for a month and her parents had to fly out to get her.
“She wouldn’t talk about it,” added Mr Jemmett. “She would not recognise at that stage she had a problem. It wasn’t until May 2010 that I made her go to the doctor - which nearly broke our relationship. I think it was grief that accelerated it.”
The grief came with the death of her mother in 2010 from a rare and undiagnosed cancer, for which Richard still blames doctors, a fact he “freely admits”.
“The doctors treated [Felicity] like a child,” he added. “They seemed to think I had control over what she did - which I didn’t. She was extremely strong willed.
“It was a control mechanism - it wasn’t the way she looked and she didn’t think she was too fat. It was a way of her having control over her life.”
Felicity’s older brother, Antony, added medical professionals were attempting a “broad brush” approach with the Mental Health Act.
“I think for her it was a lack of control. We have a single father and she was the only female in a predominantly male family setting. It was the lack of close female family members to talk to.”
Friends paid tribute to Felicity as “a lovely young girl” who appeared to “live life to the fullest”.
She was well-known for her love of animals,” said Amy Bradnam. “To learn of this tragedy was so, so sad, and she is sorely missed by all who knew her.”
Felicity’s death was recorded as natural causes, namely acute myocardial atrophy and fibrosis with anorexia nervosa.
“The system is broken”
Felicity’s father said changes need to be made in the provision of care for people suffering with eating disorders in Norfolk.
His daughter had been willing to attend Newmarket House Clinic in Norwich rather than being sectioned, and had been due to be admitted in February before being told no beds were available.
“Personally I think the system is broken,” said Mr Jemmett. “If you do not fit neatly into their boxes and standard treatment plans they do not know how to adapt.
“Having care centralised in places like Cambridge and Norwich for people who live in other parts of the county makes it extremely difficult and stressful to get to all of the regular meetings. Had there been availability in community hospitals it would certainly improve how the care could work.
“If it was caught earlier there was the opportunity to put in place coping mechanisms, particularly for stress and anxiety.”
Full recovery is possible
A spokesman for Beat, the eating disorder charity based in Norwich, said: “Eating disorders are complex mental health issues and we know their effects can be devastating for individuals, their parents and friends.
“Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible but the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and sustained recovery.
“If the signs and symptoms of eating disorders are spotted early sectioning under the Mental Health Act could be avoided. However we know that, under certain circumstances this is not possible and the Mental Health Act can save someone’s life, if used appropriately.
“Every person concerned about their wellbeing should have their concerns acknowledged respectfully, and be able to find necessary treatment without delay. It is important that in all NHS Trusts and private hospitals there are adequate staff of a suitable level of specialisation in order to fulfil this need.
Beat’s Helpline can be contacted from 3-10pm on 0808 801 0677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.