‘My daughter died after a battle with anorexia. Now I want to help other families going through the same horror’
‘My daughter died after a battle with anorexia. Now I want to help other families going through the same horror’ Pip McManus took her own life, aged just 15, after a three-year battle with anorexia Share Get daily
Pippa McManus was a gentle soul, says her mum Marie.
Pippa, known as Pip, loved animals, art and helping at the hospice where her mum worked in Gatley.
But the youngster’s life was cruelly cut short when she stepped in front of a train, aged 15, after a three-year battle with anorexia.
It’s almost three years since Pip’s death in December 2015 and her mother, Marie McManus, is still grieving for her little girl.
But the McManus family, from Gatley, are determined that Pip’s life and suffering was not in vain, and want to help other families in similar, desperate circumstances.
Marie, 53, despaired at the lack of support for young people and their parents living with an eating disorder. Read More US woman charged with ‘swatting’ Oldham family, who say a troll wrecked their lives with false claims and bogus 999 calls
“From the beginning of Pip’s illness we had no idea about anorexia at all,” says Marie.
“We didn’t have a clue what we were dealing with and at times felt completely helpless. There has got to be a lot of people in the same situation right now.
“As a family we are devastated, but we are determined that something positive comes out of this tragedy.”
Pip’s battle with anorexia started at the age of 12 when she started as a pupil at Kingsway School.
She became ‘obsessed’ with looking at her side profile in the mirror and at her chin, asking if it was fat.
Though concerned, Marie and dad James did not initially think much of it. Pip McManus, who battled anorexia for three years before her death in 2015, with her beloved dog Monty.
But the teenager turned her obsession to her diet and compulsive exercise.
When Pip began losing weight, Marie took her to the doctors to get some advice.
She told the GP about Pip’s preoccupation with her chin, and her obsession with healthy eating.
“They looked her up and down and told me I shouldn’t be concerned about her healthy eating,” says Marie.
“The focus at the time was on kids being overweight or obese. They told me not to worry about it.
“The thing is I knew it wasn’t right, the things she was doing. But these people are professionals and at the time you trust their opinion. I can see Pip looking quite happy when we came out of the doctors, as though the anorexia was saying ‘we’ve got away with it’.
“Looking back I can now see all the little signs. All those things were the onset of her illness but you just don’t think about it like that at the time.”
Marie took her daughter home and Pip’s preoccupation with eating and exercise got worse. Marie McManus lost her daughter Pip to anorexia when she was 15. Now she wants to help other families (Image: Vince Cole)
It was the year of the London Olympics, and Pip took an interest in athletes, like Jessica Ennis Hill, who were all over the media at the time.
“She said if I do lots of running I’ll get long legs mum, and so she started running,” says Marie.
In January 2013, Marie took her daughter back to the doctor for more advice.
Pip had lost more weight, and Marie explained that Pip was now exercising all the time.
“It was compulsive,” says Marie. “It goes hand-in-hand with the illness. She would walk for miles and miles.” Read More
A month and several visits to the doctors later, Pip was finally diagnosed with anorexia.
Her illness was ‘spiralling out of control’ and she was already severely underweight.
“By this time she was really, really poorly. I said I can’t stop her exercising. At was at my wits’ end, I didn’t know what to do with her.
“I bought her home and it spiralled out of control. In that period between going to the doctor and coming home you have nobody. You just have no support and you’re worried. It’s just all a vicious circle.”
Pip was referred to Stockport children’s and adolescent mental health service (CAMHs) and admitted to a specialist unit, Galaxy House. Pip McManus batlled with anorexia for three years
At the age of 13 Pip was detained under the mental health act and later admitted to the Priory.
Her illness started to manifest itself in other ways, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
At times she would tell Marie and Jim she was having ‘bad thoughts’ – a term Pip used to describe the voice of anorexia and self-harm in her head.
“I look back and think that must have been absolutely horrendous for her,” says Marie.
“She said it was like having another head on your shoulders. Somebody there all the time never giving her a minute’s rest.”
Pip had been due for release from the Priory in November 2015 but this was delayed when it was discovered she had bound her feet in tape for two weeks, believing they were fat. At that point Pip had been at the psychiatric hospital for more than a year.
And despite concerns from her parents that her treatment had stalled, she was released under a community treatment order on December 4, 2015.
Just five days later, she travelled to Gatley train station and stepped in front of a train. Read More Boohoo in homeless row after security guard tells man to get off doorstep
Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, from medical complications associated with the illness as well as suicide.
Marie and Jim, and their three other adult children are still dealing with the impact of Pip’s loss.
The grief, says Marie, is at times overwhelming.
“At the time I was in a grief bubble,” she explains.
“I couldn’t think about anything else. When she was alive she would meet me at the hospice after I’d finished a night shift.
“Sometimes I can still see her waiting in the entrance for me. She’s always with me.”
Marie and Jim set up The Pip Foundation for ABC Anorexia & Bulimia Care in their daughters’ memory.
Their vision is to create a dedicated independent support centre for Anorexia and Bulimia in Manchester called Pip’s Place. Pip before she became ill with anorexia
The centre will be the first ever independent centre providing guidance for early intervention, on-going support and education to families in similar circumstances.
Marie believes there is a desperate need for the extra support when faced with such a difficult illness.
To achieve their initial goal they are trying to raise £40K to establish a weekly drop-in hub.
So far, their JustGiving page has raised £11K.
The ‘dream’, long-term ambition is to raise £1 million to fund a new building with staff and all the necessary items to bring it to life and secure the services for years to come.
“We never want another family to go through what we have gone through,” says Marie.
“If we can help one person then it will be worth it. We’re appealing for anyone who can to support us.
More information about Pip’s place, and how to donate can be found here. Helplines and websites
Beat Eating Disorders: Beat provides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. These helplines are free to call from all phones. Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677, Studentline: 0808 801 0811, Youthline: 0808 801 0711. www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Anorexia & Bulimia Care: ABC provide on-going care, emotional support and practical guidance for anyone affected by eating disorders, those struggling personally and parents, families and friends. Helpline: 03000 11 12 13. www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/
Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.
CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They’re open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.
Childline (0800 1111 ) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill. PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information depressionalliance.org
Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org
The Sanctuary (0300 003 7029 ) helps people who are struggling to cope – experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks or in crisis. You can call them between 8pm and 6am every night.There are other depression charities. Like us on Facebook