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‘Anorexia robbed Nikki Grahame of her chance for a long, fulfilling life’ – Polly Hudson

They died on the same day, and apart from that they couldn’t have had less in ­common. One of them was among the most enduringly well-known men in the world despite never courting fame.

The other was apparently briefly sustained by the notoriety she pursued and eventually achieved on a reality show.

The passing of one was global front-page news, for which a period of national mourning was announced, Parliament recalled to pay tribute, normal programming suspended on the BBC.

The passing of the other was announced on social media, where tributes flooded in from the more niche section of society shocked and saddened by the news, but there would be no national mourning, no mention in Parliament, no deviation from planned TV schedules.

And yet, it could be argued that Nikki Grahame’s death matters just as much – arguably, even more – than Prince Philip’s.

While clearly devastating for his family, and poignant for the country, Prince Philip was 99 and had lived a long life full of experiences. He was a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather.

Nikki Grahame was 38. Not yet a wife or mother, though she longed to be both. Hers was a life cut tragically short. Her friends and family will probably never be free from the agony of all the What Ifs.

Prince Philip’s death was inevitable. Nikki Grahame’s could have been preventable.

It sheds a horrific light on the post-coronavirus mental health crisis gripping the UK.

Nikki had anorexia from the age of seven. We mainly hear about young women, but eating disorders affect everyone, regardless of gender or age. They have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

In figures estimated – they can only ever be estimated because so many suffer in silence – pre-Covid, around 1.6 million people in this country had one.

The pandemic has caused this number to sky rocket. Last May, psychiatrists were warning of a “tsunami” of mental illness from problems stored up during lockdown, and that was back when we thought everything would be back to normal by Christmas.

The NHS, as we know, is vastly overstretched across the board, and never more so than now. Eating disorders services are no different, with nowhere near enough in-patient beds.

Cognitive behavioural therapy can help in many cases, but there’s a waiting list of over a year in some areas. Nikki Grahame’s friends felt forced to crowdfund to pay for urgent private medical treatment, which cost a ­staggering £25,000 a month.

Admitting that you have an eating disorder is an incredibly difficult thing to do, and, understandably, takes some people a long time. When they do ask for help, they must get it, quickly.

The Government needs to act NOW. Ministers cannot ignore this emergency.

They have to find the funding to make sure everyone struggling has the best possible chance of recovery.

For those without the public profile to raise money through donations, it’s their only hope.

The deaths of Prince Philip and Nikki Grahame remind us that every loss is heartbreaking for those left behind. The inevitable ones hurt. The preventable ones are too much to bear.



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