'My son was throwing up 25 times a day before he died'
Published 28/02/2014 | 02:30
By the time of his death in September 2009, very few people knew that Laurence Nugent had been secretly suffering from bulimia for eight years.
The 24-year-old from Carryduff, Co Down, died from heart failure, never having received the help he needed to recover.
His heartbroken family believes there is still not enough support out there for young men who are living with eating disorders.
"My son should not be in the grave as a result of an eating disorder," his mum Pamela told the Irish Independent.
"Young men are too ashamed to get help, or if they do, there is a lack of understanding among care providers."
Pamela recalls how her football-loving son had gone from being a healthy, outgoing child to a troubled young adult.
"He was probably bullied at school when he was young and he took it more to heart than other lads. He suffered from low self-esteem. The bulimia became his coping strategy for dealing with the challenges of life."
At first, the family couldn't understand how Laurence was eating so much but losing weight, until they realised he was throwing up, as often as 25 times a day. "We tried to talk to Laurence. Eventually, we said we knew there is something wrong and he was able to say he vomited," says Pamela. "It's a very hard thing to know when you have made the dinner for your son that he is going up the stairs and getting sick in the toilet.
"It's heart-breaking but you have to get past that," she says.
He attempted to take his life three times. "He absolutely loathed himself. All he could see was this man who was overweight in his mind."
The family brought him a GP, who appeared to have no understanding of the condition, and later to an eating disorder group, but he refused to return because there were too many young women in the group.
They even sought help from the Samaritans but the strain bulimia was putting on his body was too great and his heart gave in.
Pamela and her son Chris have set up The Laurence Trust in a bid to raise awareness of eating disorders and related issues in young men.
"We don't want any young man to feel as alone and isolated as Laurence and we don't want another family to go through what we went through," says Pamela.