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Friends of Molly McLaren to ‘continue what she started’ by raising awareness of eating disorders

PUBLISHED: 09:56 08 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:18 08 September 2017

Molly McLaren and Amy Lee

Molly McLaren and Amy Lee

Archant

The 23-year-old, who was killed in a shopping centre car park, had previously suffered with the illness

Friends of tragic Molly McLaren insist they are determined to “continue what she started” by shining the light on a hidden illness.

The 23-year-old student, who was murdered in a Chatham shopping centre car park in June, previously suffered from an eating disorder, before setting up a blog, where she wrote positive posts in a bid to help and inspire others.

Following her death, friends and family established the Molly McLaren Foundation, aiming to raise both money and awareness of such disorders, and more than £20,000 has already been collected in around ten weeks.

Amy Lee, who worked with Miss McLaren at a Ted Baker store and remained close friends long after she moved onto another job, is a trustee of the foundation.

She told us: “After everything that happened, we all got together at [Miss McLaren’s parents] Jo and Doug’s and we really wanted to work what the next steps looked like,” she said.

“When you’re overwhelmed with grief and you’re in shock and not really sure what to do, you feel really helpless.

“So the idea of the foundation was to take all of this energy that we all had and put it into something positive.

“The aim is to raise awareness of eating disorders because it’s underfunded, I don’t believe it’s particularly well advertised or spoken about and our focus is to make sure people know what help is out there before they get to the GP or medical side of things.”

The help she refers to are blogs like the one set up by Miss McLaren, and services offered by charities such as Beat, which is set to receive the lion’s share of money raised by the foundation.

On October 27, ambassadors of the charity will speak at the University of Kent’s Medway campus, where Miss McLaren studied exercise, sport and health education, and they will be joined by her fellow student and friend, Jen Hamer, who has also previously suffered from an eating disorder.

Miss Hamer is also helping to organise a family fun day at Medway Park the Sunday before, October 22, where she is hoping for 300 people to take part in an array of health related activities.

She said: “I used to get very angry because we used to have a lot of discussions and Molly would say ‘I’ve gone back to the doctors but I’m on a waiting list’ and it used to infuriate me.

“How is that right that the help is not there? It has to change, and the more awareness that’s created, the more people speak about it, the more chance there is going to be that help available. There’s got to be a turn somewhere.

“But when you face mental health issues, it gives you strength you can apply to so many areas of your life.

“Molly could help people because the advice and words she would use could help you in so many areas.

“No matter what the problem was, there were always words she could say that would make it a little bit easier.”

Last month saw hundreds flock to the funeral of Miss McLaren, from Cobham, at Gravesend Crematorium, where her parents had requested mourners wear as much colour as possible.

Miss Lee said: “There’s a lot of things Molly did. She had a great attitude towards life in general.

“She wasn’t materialistic, it was more about your memories, your values and what you stand for.

“She was inspirational because she was so selfless yet she had so much going on. At face value, she was the absolute picture of health, but behind closed doors that absolutely wasn’t the case.

“The more you got to know Molly and the more time you spent with her you found her inspirational because despite everything she had going on, if you had a bad day she was all ears – your problem was her problem.

“To provide all of this for other people and then go home and know that you are actually quite vulnerable yourself, takes a massive person.”

Joshua Stimpson, 25 and of High Street in Wouldham, Rochester, has been charged with her murder and will appear in court on September 18 to enter a plea.

Jane Glew is the deputy director of the university’s school of sport and exercises sciences, worked closely with Miss McLaren, and gave a tribute at her funeral.

She told us this week how bringing the foundation and university together would help create synergy.

“We’re working very closely with the foundation at the university and helping them wherever we can,” she said.

“In terms of the work Molly was already doing, she wanted very much to move things forward and look at living healthily and using health and exercise to come over adversity of any mental health illness situation.

“People are aware people having eating disorders, but I don’t think they know about the breadth of numbers there are, the different age groups involved and the different levels that people may be experiencing.

“People think they will always be able to identify if a member of their family, friend or partner has an eating disorder but that’s not the case and often it’s not that noticeable until things are at quite a severe level.

“So we’re looking at ways in which we can support people before it gets to that more serious situation and show them you can move forward positively.

“What we always remembered about Molly was her bouncing down the corridor, full of enthusiasm, always a smile on her face, leopard print jacket and torn jeans.

“She just was a whirlwind. Wherever she was, there was positivity. It didn’t matter what sort of challenges there were that day, she just lit up the room and had such a positive impact on everybody.”

Miss Lee added: “We’re trying to make sure she gets remembered for all the right reasons and that we continue what she started.

“It is understudied and people say ‘I haven’t heard about it so it’s not there’.

“The foundation has got so much awareness for such a horrific reason and if we don’t channel that into something positive then it’s completely a waste.

“Being able to have such a big voice, even if it reaches another five people than it did yesterday, that’s a positive, and something we focus on every day.”

To donate to the foundation visit http://bit.ly/2wOjf5J

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