It’s Time to Walk About It
Across the country, millions of Americans are joining forces to raise awareness about one of the most devastating illnesses to date. This is the second year that the National Eating Disorders Association hosted awareness walks. At one local event, participants; made up of people in active recovery from this insidious disease, people who are recovered, and those that care about individuals personally affected, got to hear riveting stories from recovered individuals about how they came to accept their bodies and cease fighting.
The walk took place through winding, tree-lined paths along the University of Virginia campus. Along the way, the sidewalk was chalked with positive affirmations, a concept that many of the eight million Americans currently affected by this disorder have a hard time grasping. This is because, when a sufferer constantly hears voices of self-doubt, seeing and hearing positive affirmations are a shock to the system and take a while to take in and accept.
There is Hope
After the walk, participants got to hear how they could personally get more involved. A bill, aptly named the ‘˜FREED Act,’ is currently in Congress. This bill will allow for more extensive treatment, education and funding. It will create an advocacy program to help patients get the necessary and proper care.
Education and Prevention
According to several studies conducted by The Renfrew Center Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of awareness and education, prevention, research, and treatment of eating disorders, one in five women struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with an estimated 480,000 dying prematurely from complications such as heart problems, organ failure and sadly enough, suicide. This figure is estimated, as no U.S. government agencies track eating disorders and related deaths.
Insurance stalls recovery
A major contributing factor to this widespread epidemic is the lack of insurance coverage. Many commercial insurance companies, if including mental health benefits at all, cap the number of inpatient treatment days at 30 a year. Those 30 calendar days often then take away from a patient’s ability to receive the necessary follow-up outpatient care; made up of a team of medical doctors, nutritionists, therapists and psychiatrists.
Organizations like the National Eating Disorders Association, the FREED Foundation and the Eating Disorders Coalition are working to raise awareness and reduce the stereotype and stigmas of eating disorders nation wide.
What can you do?
On the NEDA website (nationaleatingdisorders.org) you can find links to upcoming walks in your area. The EDC website (eatingdisorderscoalition.org) lists ways that you can help Congress pass the influential FREED Act. Simply by writing a letter to your state representative, you can make your voice heard. A voice that will help the millions of Americans who are working to find their own voices.