A FATHER and daughter duo from Southampton have made it their mission to support other families after a 'devastating anorexia struggle'.

Dr Elizabeth 'Lizzie' McNaught and her dad Nick Pollard have co-founded Family Mental Wealth to support and teach parents how to communicate with children suffering with mental illness.

When Lizzie was 14-years-old, she nearly died while battling anorexia as a teenager.

She was rushed to hospital which Nick says saved her life, before spending six months in inpatient care.

During her long journey through recovery, Nick and his wife Carol had to learn a new way of communicating with their daughter in order to support her.

Lizzie recovered from anorexia and is now a GP registrar living in Bath with her husband.

Lizzie said: "I was 14 when I was diagnosed with anorexia.

"I was really fortunate that I had really good support here in Southampton, so really good support from CAHMS and the local services.

"I spent quite a few months in hospital and years in community care. I had to journey through that and achieve recovery.

I have recovered and I managed to continue my education and qualify."

Nick, who lives in Bassett, said: "When you're a father and you've got a daughter who is very ill with any mental health condition, it's very distressing for you as parents.

"My wife and I used to feel like we were in a dark tunnel with no light at the end, you couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel and you start to think 'well maybe I am in a cave and we're never going to get out of this'."

In response to their family’s experience, Nick and Lizzie, together with Carol, co-founded Family Mental Wealth, a government-funded social enterprise working in collaboration with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

This year saw the launch of an online resource for parents called the Headway Parent Tool Kit which provides information, advice and support for parents.

Nick and Lizzie have shared two pieces of advice for parents which have been turned into "short phrases that stick in your ear".

Nick said: "Be curious, not furious - it means that if you're a parent and you have a child, perhaps a son who comes down in the morning, really moody, crashing around and grunting when spoken to, our natural reaction as parents is to get cross.

"But the fact is there's always a reason for behaviour, there are always things going on in their mind that lead to a particular behaviour.

"So being curious rather than furious means asking big open questions which give them an opportunity to gradually articulate what is going on in their minds."

Lizzie added: "Be a believer and a cheerleader - one of the tools we use with parents is 'be a believer and a cheerleader'. Really believe in the child, be their main supporter and celebrate all those little steps.

"When you're struggling and going through a period of poor mental health it can feel like people aren't seeing the steps that you're taking. They say 'well you're not better', and you'll think you're just not seeing the steps I've taken yesterday. It's about focusing on those little steps and really celebrating them, encouraging them, and supporting them through them.

"It is so important because it is so easy to be self-critical when you're living with poor mental health but if you've got someone really supporting you and encouraging you it helps to counteract that negative internal dialogue."

Visit www.familymentalwealth.com/headway/ for more information and advice.