As Eating Disorders Awareness Week approaches, Gemma shares her experiences to encourage others to speak out
Gemma Oaten has bravely given an emotional TV interview about her 13-year battle with anorexia.
The actress – who’s known for playing Rachel Breckle in Emmerdale – became tearful on ITV’s Lorraine today when she was shown photos of herself when she was younger, given the memories it brought back for her.
‘Seeing those pictures, to be honest I haven’t seen those in five or six years,’ she explained.
‘And wow, it brings back a lot of memories.’
Gemma’s struggles with her eating disorder began at an early age and she admits that it took for her parents to help her understand what was going on.
‘It’s such a weird thing to go through at that age because I don’t think I really understood where I was at and what was happening,’ the TV star revealed.
’It wasn’t until my mum and dad sat me down and said, “Gem this isn’t you, this isn’t the bubbly girl we know”, and this is what anorexia and many mental health illnesses do to young children.
‘It strips away the person they once was and it makes them a shell.’
Gemma, 31, was joined for the moving chat by her mum Marg, who has set up an eating disorders helpline, and stressed how her family were a huge support during her illness.
She also had an inspiring message for anybody struggling with similar issues.
‘That’s one of my biggest heartbreaks and probably why I get upset because of what I put my mum and my dad and my siblings through,’ she told host Fiona Phillips.
‘I think what we want to try and say is that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and people will look at me and mum, and our family unit and see that we went to hell and back but we did it.’
Next week is Eating Disorders Awareness week and Gemma – who is a patron for the eating disorder support service Seed – is doing a wonderful job in raising awareness.
The actress recently spoke of her experiences in detail in a passionate blog post where she voiced her concerns about how eating disorders are diagnosed.
Gemma struggled to get the treatment she needed when her illness began aged 10 and is also frustrated at how mental health sufferers often face long waiting lists, so has vowed to continue to help raise awareness of these issues.
The brave star has since been praised for speaking out and admits the response has got her feeling quite emotional.
‘In tears reading all the messages @itvlorraine just blown away. God love you all. Just amazing x,’ Gemma posted on Instagram.
Keep up the good work, Gemma!