Big Brother’s Nikki Grahame dies aged 38 after prolonged battle with anorexia
Updated: Jan 29
It was announced on Saturday that TV personality Nikki Graham had very sadly lost her long battle with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
Nikki’s explosive appearance on the reality show Big Brother, propelled her to fame in 2006, but behind all of the antagonism and bravado lay a more fragile and vulnerable nature.
She was first admitted to an eating disorders unit at the age of only 8, after which she battled the illness for next thirty years, spending many months in various different institutions without ever really getting any better.
Heartbroken mother Susan Grahame explains that the pandemic “really put the cap on it” with isolation and the closing of gyms leaving Nikki spending “too much time alone with nothing to think about but food.”
Having already exhausted all options on the NHS, and needing immediate intervention, friends and family raised a huge £69,000 for Nikki to receive specialist private treatment but she died one day after leaving hospital.
The money raised will now go towards supporting others that are battling the deadly illness so that they can receive better treatment.
Nikki’s tragic death highlights the importance and need for improved services for eating disorders and other mental health problems.
The system on the NHS is completely overwhelmed and eating disorder patients are having to wait for months while getting worse and worse before there is a space for them to be admitted.
A friend told me about her recent experience when she had to wait for five months just for an initial assessment, even though she was dangerously underweight. The hospital told her that her only way of being seen earlier was if she lost even more weight, which is a frightening message to be sending out.
She highlights so many important points when it comes to anorexia and eating disorders with patients still feeling shame and stigma because of the continued misunderstanding around the illness. She explains:
“I think the stigma around eating disorders comes from people not appreciating that it's a real illness, thinking it’s a silly vanity thing, thinking sufferers are just being stubborn (‘why don't you just eat’) thinking it's a problem only for women, specifically young women. The variety of eating disorders is not appreciated either, and the fact that many people with anorexia may go on to struggle with binge eating and/or bulimia is a problem - this possibility was NEVER talked about during any of my hospital admissions so when it happened to me, I felt horrified and ashamed and felt totally out of control. I think this is something that needs to be taken more seriously and addressed in treatment.”
The support available to inpatients is often lacking and substandard with patients left for long periods of time alone in their rooms with little to distract them from their illness and situation.
This is the same across all psychiatric wards on the NHS and I spent hours and hours sitting in windowsills doing my own ‘therapy’ since there was absolutely nothing in the way of psychological support or counselling.
Nikki Grahame was once quoted as saying that in one of her admissions she spent “three months alone in a cubicle, 24 hours a day with no stimulation at all”, and this is happening over and over again.
My friend also highlights this issue saying:
“The treatment itself needs to be more focused on psychological recovery as opposed to physical recovery. There is very little in the way of actual therapy, and treatment is instead focused on BMI. You leave treatment feeling like there's a discrepancy between your healthy body and your unhealthy mind and straight away that sets you up for relapse.”
Not only is therapy lacking but since these disorders are not tackled near enough to the onset of the illness, the patient gets more deeply entrenched in the disorder, making it harder to help them and reducing the chances of recovery in the future.
We must learn from the experiences of those who have been failed by the system and focus on education and improved services for future generations.
With an estimated 1.25 million people living with an eating disorder in the U.K, provision of care must be prioritised so that patients can be admitted before they reach crisis point to give them the best possible chance of survival and recovery.
Nikki Grahame’s story and the issues surrounding anorexia and eating disorders can be found in a detailed article from the Daily Mail which I have attached here.
If you would like more information about anorexia or any other eating disorders or you are concerned for yourself, a friend or family member then you can find resources and support through the charity ‘Beat’ whose website can be found here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,