Illawarra residents affected by an eating disorder are urged to join a candlelight vigil in Sydney tonight to pressure the NSW government to "step up to the plate" and improve services for sufferers.
On the eve of World Mental Health Day, the group campaigning to expose the "holes in the state's health system" are urging people to bring photos of loved ones and messages of hope.
"We want the community to know that eating disorders are the mental illness with the highest mortality rate," FedUp NSW campaign founder Ella Graham said. But despite the grim statistics, full recovery was possible with adequate treatment, she said.
"We invite you to bring your community to share with us the memory of loved ones lost, and hope that the NSW government will provide urgent funding for eating disorders services across the state."
Ms Graham - who won't be attending as she was admitted yesterday to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to one of just two adult eating disorder beds in the state - encouraged people to share their stories.
"We hope people bring flowers and candles to will come together as a community and send a strong message to the NSW Government that change is urgently needed," she said.
"We encourage you to tie your stories, messages of hope and wishes for change to the gates of NSW Parliament House."
Gerringong's Rebekah McAlinden will be attending the vigil. She has been blogging about her recovery and hopes to help expose the shortage of specialist beds, long waiting lists and lack of general support for sufferers.
Federal Member for Gilmore, Joanna Gash said yesterday World Mental Health Day was an "opportunity for us all to raise awareness about mental health issues in our community".
The theme for the day this year is Depression: A Global Crisis.
"Depression is the most common affective disorder which affects four per cent of the general population," Mrs Gash said.
"More disturbingly however, approximately 160,000 young people aged between 16 to 24 live with depression each year."
For help phone beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information about eating disorders contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 334 673.
Ms McAlinden's blog about her recovery is at www.risforrecovery.wordpress.com