FREED is a service that’s designed to give young people with eating disorders rapid access to specialised, evidence-based treatment and support that’s tailored to their needs. FREED can be offered to 16 to 25 year olds who have had an eating disorder for three years or less.
Because FREED is evidence-based and focused on early intervention, it’s more effective than traditional treatments at reversing the changes that an eating disorder causes to young people’s brains, bodies, and behaviours.
FREED is available for adults aged 18 to 25 through Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (which includes the boroughs of Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Harrow, Brent, Hillingdon, Hammersmith & Fulham). You can find out more about all of the services for young people in North West London on the Best For You website.
Wherever you are, you can find out how to get support using a tool on the FREED website. Your GP can refer you to your local eating disorder service, and even if FREED isn’t available there, you’ll be seen by someone who’s used to working with young people.
FREED has a helpful guide to help and support, which contains information on what happens during assessment and treatment for an eating disorder and what you can do to help yourself while you’re waiting.
What FREED does
FREED makes it easier for young people to get the right treatment at the right time. They’re used to engaging with young people, so they don’t rely on posting letters – they try to work with you to find the best way of communicating. They also understand that life is busy so they can help you figure out appointment times that work for you.
FREED also makes sure that young people don’t have to wait too long for an assessment. They offer treatment to everyone with a diagnosable eating disorder, and have worked hard to challenge criteria for treatment that, for example, meant some young people were told they weren’t ill enough for treatment and they needed to get more unwell first. FREED also makes sure that, after someone’s been assessed, they don’t have to wait too long for their treatment to start.
FREED gives young people access to evidence-based treatments – different types of talking therapies depending on the person and the eating disorder they have. But FREED also recognises that young people have specific things going on in their lives (like looking at going to university or starting work, thinking about social media, and talking about what it’s like to become an adult). It also encourages family members (or partners) to have some involvement in the care of the person with an eating disorder.
Why FREED is for 16 to 25 year olds who have had an eating disorder for less than three years
The evidence suggests that if someone has only been unwell for a short time, treatment seems to work better – and this is most true when people are teenagers or young adults.
Eating disorders cause changes in people’s bodies, brains, and behaviour; these changes are more easily reversed in the first three years of the illness.
This does not mean that people outside of this age group (or people who have had an eating disorder for longer than three years) cannot get better. It is possible to recover from an eating disorder at any age and after any length of illness – but it does get harder to make the changes you need to make to recover.
Without early intervention, an eating disorder may have long-lasting consequences – and people are more likely to miss out on opportunities like education or relationships if their eating disorder goes untreated for longer.
The goal is that, eventually, everyone with an eating disorder will be able to access the right treatment for them when they need it. FREED is one step towards this goal, and it’s been designed for this group of people.
Where FREED came from
FREED was developed and tested by the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust Foundation’s Eating Disorders Unit and King’s College London.
When they tested FREED and compared it with how they’d usually treat young people, they found that FREED patients waited less time for assessment and treatment and had better treatment outcomes too. Using FREED was a positive experience for young people, their families, and staff.
Now, FREED is in lots of different eating disorder services in the UK.
The FREED website has a lot of helpful guides on topics including:
- Seeking help.
- Social media and apps.
- Ramadan and eating disorders.
- The brain and eating disorders.
- Travel advice.
- Becoming an adult (emerging adulthood).
- Preparing for university.
- Fitness to study.
You can read answers to questions people often ask on the FREED website.
The FREED website also has information for NHS professionals who are interested in FREED.