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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Campus in need of eating disorder support

While reading Melissa Grau's article, it was quite clear to me that she has never sought treatment from University Health Services for an eating disorder. Anyone who has actually taken the courageous step of seeking help, would certainly not be praising UHS for their ""outstanding caregiving and counselling."" One would hope that the most fatal mental illness would receive such a response; however, that is not the case at UHS.

If you enter UHS counselling services meeting the criteria for anorexia, bulimia, or eating disorder not otherwise specified, they will very kindly show you the door letting you know that they do not treat eating disorders while giving you a list of therapists in the area that do. For someone who is unsure about treatment, that is typically the end of the road. Seeking help for an eating disorder is a terrifying experience, and having a door shut in your face provides little motivation to take that step again.

Only one-third of anorexia sufferers and six percent of bulimia sufferers receive help. The statistics for Ed-NOS are not even known because often sufferers do not seek help believing they are not ""sick enough"" or ""thin enough"" to have an eating disorder. Furthermore, those who are living with binge eating disorder are the least likely to seek treatment due to the shame associated with it. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and it is time people realize that.

Now, back to that lovely list that UHS supplies. If you are one of the lucky few whose insurance company will actually cover someone on that list, you better be very self-motivated in your recovery because you will have to make time to schedule appointments and travel off campus for them. This is extremely draining for a student taking a full load of courses, participating in extracurriculars and possibly working; thus, it is just another reason to stop bothering with the search for treatment. For the seldom few who persevere, recovery is still a long and bumpy path. I have yet to meet someone who has always been one hundred percent certain about recovery.

Most people do not realize that eating disorders are essentially an addiction, just like alcoholism. The temptation to give up and fall back into eating disorder behaviors seems to be always present, especially when first seeking treatment. Those beginning recovery need a great deal of support. Family and friends may or may not be a wonderful support; regardless, it can be very difficult for them to understand unless they have experienced it. In our society, comments about weight and food are so common that even people with the best intentions can do or say something very harmful to a person in recovery. Support needs to come from a person knowledgeable about eating disorders.

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Coming to UW-Madison, I thought there was sure to be some support groups available. After contacting someone associated with UHS Healthy Eating Services, I was very shocked and upset to learn that there was absolutely nothing on campus for eating disorder support. I am still confused about why a Healthy Eating Services exists if they do not provide help to those who need it most. I was even more shocked to find out that there was practically nothing in the whole city of Madison. In a place with groups for nearly anything and everything, I could find nothing to provide the support I wanted and needed. With four out of ten Americans suffering or knowing someone who suffers from an eating disorder, I find it difficult to believe that on a campus of over forty thousand I am the only one in need of this support.

I have been blessed to find a few others determined in their recovery, and we have built our own support group. Our weekly group meeting is one of the highlights of my week. Living with an eating disorder is very lonely, and for the longest time I felt ashamed. It is so comforting to finally be surrounded by people who relate to what I am feeling. In group, I do not have to hide anything or fear that I will be judged. I do not ever have to worry that my support group will shut a door in my face and say, ""sorry, we won't help you,"" like UHS has done to so many suffering with eating disorders. We are fed up (yes, pun intended) with this type of response to our outreach for help. A change needs to happen now before someone loses his or her life to an eating disorder.

—Emily Sutter



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