On Thursday night, Feb. 25, around 40 students from the Claremont University Consortium filled Scripps College's Student Union, prepared to talk about and find support for those affected by eating disorders.
The 5C Mental Health Alliance (MHA) organized a panel in observance of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which encourages greater awareness and support for those who have struggled or are struggling with eating disorders. The five students on the panel poignantly shared their own experiences with various eating disorders, from struggles they have faced or still face, to recovery. Each panelist spoke for about ten minutes in a supportive and judgment-free environment filled with attentive students.
“The purpose of this panel is to have people speak about it to a large group of people so that it’s talked about more. Then, we can try to alleviate and ameliorate all of these issues together”, said Abigail Daum, SC ‘17, co-president of the MHA. Daum also mentioned that panels can be a valuable tool for opening up discussion about topics that are often stigmatized and therefore not talked about.
Sabine Scott PO ’19, founder of Thrive, a 5C group dedicated to opening up discussion of mental health issues, said she was “happy to have a week dedicated to this topic because so many people are affected by it and don’t feel like they can seek help.” She expressed her hope that this week would give people an opportunity to get support.
“When affected by an eating disorder, it’s easy to isolate yourself, and it can be empowering to hear from others who have been through similar struggles,” said Scott.
Daum stressed the importance of increasing awareness surrounding the struggle of living with an eating disorder, “particularly on college campuses where there’s a lot about food and a lot about exercising.” Daum also mentioned the need to erase the stigma associated with eating disorders, since mental health in general is often tabooed.
Last night’s panel served as the main event of Eating Disorders Awareness Week at the 5Cs. “A panel is really great because you get to hear actual student experiences,” Daum said. She mentioned that although “opening up to an audience of people is a huge deal and it’s really hard,” it can be a valuable thing for both the speakers and the audience to realize they are not alone and that there is support out there.
According to Scott, struggles with food can be even more difficult in college because “being in a new environment and dealing with the stress of an increased workload can either bring on disordered eating or trigger past behaviors.”
Many of the panelists discussed difficulties with triggers in the sense that many social events around the campuses involve food or revolve around food.
As Daum explained, exercise and sports culture is very prominant at the 5Cs.
“The way to catch up with someone is to get a meal at a dining hall, and I think for people that aren’t aware, that can be a really stressful and upsetting and overwhelming environment for people with eating disorders.”
According to the National Eating Disorders Association’s website, the aim of Eating Disorder Awareness week is to “put the spotlight on the seriousness of eating disorders and to improve public understanding of their causes, triggers and treatments.” The organization hopes to improve early detection and intervention so that those struggling with disordered eating can recover.