The daughter of anti-racism campaigner Trevor Phillips has died after experiencing anorexia for more than two decades.
Sushila Phillips, 36, who was working as a freelance journalist, “died peacefully in her own bed” last weekend with her father and his former wife, Asha, at her side.
The news of her death was shared on Facebook by Sushila’s younger sister Holiday, 33, on Wednesday. The post read: “Dear all – my beloved sister Sushi passed away on Sunday morning after a 22-year battle with anorexia.”
It continued: “She went peacefully, in her own bed, in our mum’s arms. Exactly how she would have wanted it. She was one of the wisest, kindest, strongest, and funniest people I knew.
“Eternally compassionate in the face of unspeakable suffering, grateful for the small things every day – the sun on her face and a smile from a stranger, she had the most wicked sense of humour, and she was committed to fighting for justice for people suffering with mental illness.”
Sushila had graduated with a first-class honours degree from York University and worked as a freelance journalist.
Holiday promised to continue her sister’s efforts to help those affected by mental illness “in every way I can”. She said her sister was “a force and the most beautiful soul I ever knew. A best friend and an inspiration.”
Phillips, 63, wrote about his daughter’s battle with anorexia last month. In an article for the Times in the wake of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, he compared his daughter’s struggles with Meghan’s.
“Though I have thankfully never sunk to the despair described by the duchess,” he wrote, “our family has spent more than two decades watching helplessly as my older daughter battled a severe eating disorder.
“Hours before writing these words she and I bade farewell on a familiar threshold: the specialist unit to which she admits herself periodically when the daily struggle against her demons proves just too exhausting.”
He said: “I do know what it feels like to have to pin your teenage child to the floor of a speeding car to prevent her throwing herself out of the door.
“I understand what it is to hear that she may not live long enough to go to university. I have met the girls with whom she shared the hellish wards reserved for the most distressed, and learnt not to look away when she tells me that I’ll never see one of them again because she has taken her own life.”
Phillips said his experience meant he did not “take the duchess’s words lightly: about her mental health”. The broadcaster and former politician, who was chairman of the commission for racial inequality, added that it was “hard to imagine any family would knowingly ignore such distress”.
Earlier this month Nikki Grahame, the reality TV star who gained fame as a Big Brother contestant, died aged 38 while receiving treatment for an eating disorder at a specialist clinic after a fundraising campaign organised by friends and fans.
A statement from her representative released on Saturday said: “Nikki Grahame passed away in the early hours of Friday 9 April 2021. Please respect the privacy of Nikki’s friends and family at this tragic and difficult time.”
In the UK, Beat can be contacted on 0808-801-0677. In the US, the National Eating Disorders Association is on 800-931-2237. In Australia, the Butterfly Foundation is at 1800 33 4673. Other international helplines can be found at Eating Disorder Hope