'Revolutionary' Wirral charity offers support for people with even 'smallest sign' of disordered eating

'The difference between what we offer is that clinical services focus on outer restoration. For us, it’s all about how they feel and their wellbeing.'
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

A “revolutionary” Wirral charity is hoping to help those “falling through the cracks” with its new eating disorder service.

The Open Door Charity, which operates out of the Bloom Building in Birkenhead, provides mental health support to adults and young people across Merseyside.

The charity has been praised for its approach tackling the stigma around poor mental health and is the largest independent provider of talking therapies in and around Wirral. Prince William and Princess Kate visited in January 2023 and praised the charity for having “such an exciting idea to have a one-stop place for this kind of support.”

Open Door has just set up its new Mysa program helping support people over 18 with disordered eating but unlike clinical NHS treatment, it doesn’t require an NHS diagnosis. People who use the service praised it for bringing people together with similar experiences or helping them years after recovery.

Lydia Tweed is the project lead at the Open Door Charity. She said the charity’s approach to mental health was “revolutionary, not instead of the NHS but also alongside them,” adding: “The difference between what we offer is that clinical services focus on outer restoration. For us, it’s all about how they feel and their wellbeing.

“Even if somebody is outwardly restored, they are not recovered until their mind is recovered.”

Lydia Tweed from the Open Door Charity.Lydia Tweed from the Open Door Charity.
Lydia Tweed from the Open Door Charity.

She said: “As far as we know, there is no one who provides that CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) for eating disorders apart from the NHS. Hopefully we can help those who are falling through the cracks and for people to feel like they deserve that support.”

By offering support without a diagnosis, Ms Tweed said the charity can also look to support people early if they are on long NHS waiting lists or don’t want to go through the NHS, adding: “We have people who have been turned award from support or a lot of people are not even aware that they are struggling.”

She said: “What we try to make as clear as possible. Even if you have the smallest sign of disorder eating, you are included,” adding: “That is why it is so important for these services to exist. If you can’t get help, you are at a loss of where to go.”

Bloom Building, Birkenhead. Photo: Open Door CharityBloom Building, Birkenhead. Photo: Open Door Charity
Bloom Building, Birkenhead. Photo: Open Door Charity

Mysa sessions take place at the Bloom Building every two weeks and follow a theme such as creative expression, wellbeing activities, psychoeducation, and open discussions surrounding disordered eating.

It’s being funded through the Cheshire and Wirral NHS Partnership but it is also set to receive over £4m from Wirral Council to help set up the Joy project at the old Treasury building on the A5030. Joy is now expected to be delivered by 2026.

According to a new investment plan recently submitted by the local authority, it will “provide a vibrant and accessible environment where children, young people and families can access services which will improve their health, well-being and life chances.

“Joy won’t feel like a traditional health centre, but will bring together the health, arts and culture sectors through a fully integrated network of organisations from across the health, local authority and third sectors.”

The project is being delivered with the NHS combining arts and culture while also providing mental health support in the same building. In September the Open Door Charity hosted a week of programmes in the old Treasury Annex host a mixture of art exhibitions, music, wellbeing activities, and discussions on mental health support.

Lee Pennington, founder and director, said: “Open Door was created as a way of reimagining what mental health support can be like. We’ve removed the clinical backdrop that often surrounds similar provisions, and incorporated social action, arts, and culture.”

“That’s what Joy will be too – a space that brings all these areas together, but on an even bigger scale including other stakeholders such as the NHS. Vor is then us condensing everything we know Joy will be into a week-long snapshot for the public.”