Trigger Warning: This story discusses eating disorders and mental health.
The family of TV host and fitness guru Kylie 'KJ' Jaye have opened up about the tragic reason behind her death, revealing her two-decade long battle with anorexia, which they didn't know about until recently.
Kylie passed away in March, just weeks ahead of her 49th birthday, and now her brother has shared her silent struggle with the hope of shedding more light on the illness that tens of thousands of Australians suffer from.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Kylie's younger brother Isaac Humphries said her media profile and reputation for healthy living "may have made talking openly about her eating disorder even more difficult".
Instead, he said, the Sydney-born Channel 10 and E! Entertainment presenter used a 'cover illness' for years to hide the extent of the eating disorder.
"Kylie, like many mostly female victims of eating disorders, was overtaken by the mask-wearing facade generated by this illness, used smokescreens,” he told the publication.
On television, Kylie was the vision of health and wellbeing, releasing a host of diet and yoga programs, but in truth she had been fighting her crippling battle since 2002.
Her brother said the situation became “particularly challenging” over the past five years when her career became more demanding, and her organs started shutting down, but she didn't admit her struggle to her family until 10 months go during a stint in hospital.
While she was never formally diagnosed with an eating disorder, anorexia is listed as her cause of death.
Anorexia nervosa is characterised by extreme food restriction, significant weight loss and an intense fear of gaining weight, The Butterfly Foundation explains.
It is estimated that approximately 25,000 Australians are currently living with anorexia nervosa, with eating disorders said to have one of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness. Approximately 450 people across Australia are estimated to die from anorexia nervosa every year.
Kylie's family are aiming to launch a foundation in her name to help eradicate the stigma.
“We believe education initiatives, funded by government departments and supported by independent foundations, can support early diagnosis, sustained self-esteem and improved public health structures,” Isaac said.
“We want to help the sufferers of this illness find the support, the information, the tools, and mainly the hope they need in order to release the life-sapping grip of this deadly thing.”
Isaac Humphries shared the news of his sister's death on Facebook in April, along with a heartbreaking tribute.
"Today I was told your light, the brightest of any I have had the pleasure to witness or be a part of has flickered out for the last time," he wrote. "I remember you as my big sister, my defender, as a savvy and sassy business savant, Aunty to my kids, but mostly I remember you as my friend.
"I wished I could have told you one last time how amazing you were, how much I loved you and how much you meant to me and my family. You will be missed so so much."
Kylie's parents also paid tribute to their daughter, writing: "Our world is so much sadder now you are no longer with us, you were amazing and inspiring, words cannot describe our feeling of loss and grief."
For confidential support about eating disorders and body image issues you can free call the Butterfly Foundation National Hotline on 1800 33 4673.
Additional Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. Online support is also available via Beyond Blue.
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