Photo of Gemma Oaten

Gemma Oaten

Gemma Oaten has been nominated by Inspiring Women Changemakers member Liz Wright. Liz says “As a young girl, Gemma had a dream to be an actress. She achieved this dream thanks to the support of her family. Overcoming the odds, at the age of 24 she auditioned for Drama School in London and was accepted. After drama school she won the role of Rachel Breckle in Emmerdale. She played this iconic character from 2011 to 2015.

Gemma has also had roles in other TV shows as well as theatre. Even with all of her success as an actor, her biggest and most important role is as a Patron for SEED— Eating Disorder Support Service.

SEED is a service co-founded by Gemma’s parents because of Gemma and her family’s experience with anorexia. Gemma’s journey with anorexia lasted 13 years, predominately through her teen years.”

Who has she helped/who will she help?

“In her TEDx talk, Gemma spoke about her experience, “At 12 years old a medical assessment pulled me from my home and into a psychiatric unit… I was so weak they had to push me in a wheelchair and I was told if I didn’t eat and drink within 24 hours that I’d be dead.”

Even when her parents spotted the warning signs their GP didn’t take them seriously. It is from this experience that they decided to start SEED, to provide the right support and advice to families. Even with a dream to be an actress, Gemma had to fight a long, hard fight against anorexia. A fight that she doesn’t want to see other young girls got through. That is why when she was asked to be patron of SEED, she didn’t hesitate to support her parents and the charity.

Her vision is to see a world where young women and their families receive support and advice that will help them with their anorexia journey. Already, the charity has supported countless families across the UK, primarily in the North.

The charity supports people by providing varied services, such as resources, buddy schemes, nutritional advice, workshops, a services guide, and support and self help groups. All of this ensures that people are getting the right support for them. SEED acknowledges that both sufferers and families need to talk about and share their experiences.”

What’s worked?

Liz says “SEED was started in 2000 in Hull, East Yorkshire. It is a charity that has been celebrated for its inclusiveness, as spoken about by one of the people it has supported, “complete acceptance of everyone… people are welcome just as they are, irrespective of colour, religion, size, sexuality or anything else.”

It has become a well structured and well respected organisation that provides up-to-date information for the people it helps. It also provides support and self-help workshops, as well as monthly meetings, that empower it’s service users to go on to make full recoveries.

As of January, they also run a specific self-help group for youth, which reflects a widening aim of SEED to reach more young people.”

What has she learnt? Any challenges?

“Gemma and SEED are facing the challenge of growth and how to reach more young people across the UK. Whereas people in the North, and in particular Hull are able to reach the service, the challenge is how to make their reach wider and more effective, especially around supporting teachers and schools in recognising the symptoms of eating disorders and prevention.”

What’s next?

“With these challenges in mind, Gemma wants to speak in more schools, as the Patron of SEED. Gemma feels that telling her story, especially as someone who young people would look up to for her success as an actress, is crucial to tackling anorexia and other eating disorders.

This year, Gemma has upped her game, reaching out to other speakers and organisations, as well as schools, to increase her representation of SEED as a speaker. All of this alongside her actual day job as an actress.”

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

“Gemma is looking to speak to and connect with any people that work in the education sector or who work with young people so that she can use her influence to support the raising of awareness of anorexia.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!