February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month

Megan Mckay, Staff writer

February is Eating Disorder Awareness month, which marks a crucial time of the year to acknowledge and support millions of people dealing with health issues involving eating disorders.

The mission of the annual month and week starting Feb. 27 is to provide education, awareness and empowerment to the 30 million Americans suffering from an eating disorder.

By raising awareness we can ensure future preventative measures are in place along with early diagnosis and treatments for anyone struggling.

Eating disorders are complex mental disorders that cause people to have excessive fear and anxiety.

Their fears and anxiety emanate from eating, body image and weight gain that lead to unhealthy behaviors.

The goal of Eating Disorder Awareness month is to start a conversation around things that are hard to talk about, and therefore often not discussed.

Eating disorders and many mental health disorders have a negative connotation and therefore are not supported or talked about enough.

Many people have a difficult relationship with food, body image, exercise and appearance. It is because of stigma and shame that many do not get the help they need and deserve.

It is crucial to know that whether it is you, a friend or a loved one that is struggling, they should never feel like they are alone or not worthy of help.

The first step is always to start a discussion about eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder as they are all very serious and should never be overlooked.

Eating disorders are life threatening conditions that affect the lives of millions of Americans and their families each year.

Many college students face eating disorders but suffer in silence.

Specifically, 10-20% of college women have eating disorders. It is important for those struggling to seek treatment and not hesitate for guidance.

The generations to come are even more likely to face eating disorders because of the world we live in where social media is a prime factor for comparing oneself.

We often see certain body types through a screen that are very artificial and encourage people to base their self-worth on body weight and shape.

It is important that students, especially at Mercyhurst, understand they should never feel ashamed if they do not fit these unrealistic ideals.

Linda Graves works at the Mercyhurst Counseling Center and has taken the initiative this month to promote Eating Disorder Awareness. Graves described the issue. “College brings many new experiences, which can be both exciting and stressful. Students are learning to balance school, friends, sports, managing time for meals, laundry, homework, all while adjusting to being away from home possibly for the first time” said Graves.

A crucial part of raising awareness is being able to encourage people to recognize these signs. Sometimes friends are the first ones to notice a concern.

Sharing the concerns with your friend sometimes helps them reach out for assistance. Sometimes friends just do not know what to say or do.

“Students sometimes feel unhappy with themselves or develop an unhealthy focus on body image or weight. When this happens, the student may try to make changes using unhealthy behaviors. It can be hard to tell when habits have turned into a serious problem or eating disorder,” said Graves.

The Counseling Center can offer some ideas, Graves mentioned.

There are many resources both on campus and throughout the world whose main priority is to help people struggling mentally and physically.

Mercyhurst’s Counseling Center works tirelessly to ensure students have a safe space to go to when they aren’t feeling at their best.

The counseling center is on campus, plus it is very discrete and free. It is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Students can make an appointment by calling 814-824-3650.

Maintaining a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-worth is a crucial step in ensuring you can live your life as your most loved self.

Mercyhurst is joining this national campaign by bringing speakers and other activities to our campus.

Look for tables outside the Grotto that week with information pamphlets and resources you can take with you.

Graves along with other very qualified staff will be happy to answer any questions you may have and tell you what else is planned for that week.

On Thursday, March 2 at 3:30 p.m. in the Mercy Heritage Room, there will be an Eating Disorders Presentation for Mercyhurst employees by the Renew Center for Eating Disorders. On Thursday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m., the White Pines Center for Healing will give a presentation on Eating Disorders & Body Image for students in the Student Union Great Room.

Finally, Parkhurst will join the national “light it up” campaign to raise awareness about Eating Disorders by lighting up the Grotto with blue & green lights during NEDA week.

During February, take a few minutes to reflect on your eating habits to ensure you have a healthy mindset towards food.

Be sure to keep an eye out on your friends to make sure their eating habits are healthy for them.