Eating disorder awareness should not be confined to one week, advocates say
By Molly Dunn
Anyone could be struggling with an eating disorder. It could be the guy passing you in the hallway, the girl sitting next to you in class or even your best friend.
Ten million females and 1 million males in the United States suffer from anorexia or bulimia and millions more suffer from binge-eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
As National Eating Disorder Awareness Week at Baylor comes to a close, facilitators of the week’s activities and awareness campaigns don’t want students to forget about the serious impact an eating disorder has on an individual.
“Seventy-five percent of people with eating disorders haven’t had treatment for them,” Dr. Emma Wood, staff psychologist at Baylor’s counseling services, said.
With such a high percentage of individuals suffering from a disorder and not receiving the correct treatment, there is a desire to create awareness, especially on Baylor’s campus.
“People need to understand that this is not something that you can just change overnight. The person that is facing the disease right now, they need help,” Van Davis, assistant director for fitness and nutrition at the McLane Student Life Center said.
Davis has been the facilitator for the Body IQ work team for the past four years and said she believes creating awareness about eating disorders is the first and most important step in helping those suffering from an eating disorder.
“Another part of the awareness is for people to know that we have great counseling services that will provide needed assistance to help these students who are going through the problems,” Davis said.
Wood said she is doing all she can to provide students with eating disorders with the best assistance possible.
“If the eating disorder is really serious, my job as the psychologist would be to find appropriate treatment outside of Baylor,” Wood said, “whether that be with a psychologist in the community that can see them for longer period of time and consistently or whether that be with an in-patient or a residential center.”
Wood said there are two residential centers for students with serious disorders: Renfrew Center in Dallas and Remuda Ranch in Arizona.
“We care so much about the Baylor students that if we can’t serve their needs here in the counseling center, we want to make sure that the people that we are sending them to are competent and will provide the care they need,” Wood said.
Baylor provides services and opportunities for students to receive professional help.
“I think we are at the forefront of most universities across the nation because we are concerned, really concerned, and we are doing something about it,” Davis said.
The Body IQ team works with counseling services to guide and assist students who may not be willing to talk to someone about their struggles. “Every student of concern that I’ve had, they have been so positively open about sharing,” Davis said. “If it wasn’t because of the Body IQ work team, I think I would not be as educated myself to be aware, and knowing that we do have great services here available, I feel very confident to advise the students and help the students find a positive path in recovery.”
Wood also sees a positive effect from the work the counseling center and other services at Baylor have done to help students struggling with an eating disorder.
“I look at us as being, for students that are really suffering from severe disorders that can compromise their health, as being a stepping stone on their journey to health and really giving them guidance and help in finding treatments that are going to be successful for them,” Wood said.
Through her perseverance to work with students and to help them conquer their disorder, Wood has helped Baylor improve student assistance on campus overall.
“Not a lot of schools have eating disorder specialists. Not a lot of schools have eating concerned assessment teams in place,” Wood said. “This is something that Baylor is putting resources towards, is attending to and is really determined to have this be an area where we can excel in helping our students.”
With the relationships established with out-of-town and out-of-state treatment centers and other clinicians in the community, Wood has ensured that students seeking help at Baylor will receive the best treatment.
Because very few individuals actually seek help on their own, it is up to their friends and family to support them and show concern for them, Davis said.
“Do not be afraid that you are going to rat on your friends,” Davis said. “If you love that person … you are showing that love because you don’t want a good friend or someone you care about to hurt themselves [PDF].”