Each year, Walden Behavioral Care commemorates National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW) in order to highlight the seriousness of these devastating illnesses. NEDAW’s goal is “to improve public understanding
[of eating disorders]…by increasing awareness and access to resources.”
Though I do believe that many people recognize how impeding eating disorders like anorexia can be, I sometimes feel frustrated that so little is being done for such a big problem. Did you know that research dollars spent on Alzheimer’s disease averaged $88.00 for each affected individual, for Schizophrenia, $81.00, and for Autism, $44.00? A mere $0.93 was spent per affected individual in 2011 for eating disorder research. (NEDA)
THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THIS DISHEARTENING TUNNEL THOUGH!
NEDAW always helps me to reevaluate these negative emotions toward today’s society. It helps me to remember that there are a lot of really amazing organizations and individuals working hard to guide those struggling with eating disorders toward recovery. This year, I felt even more invigorated as all of our events and the attendees at each event grew exponentially, giving me hope that with each coming year, more and more people will become aware of the eating disorders epidemic, and do what they can to educate, prevent and fund much-needed eating disorders research.
This year, Walden came up with internal daily themes to be celebrated across our system locations. In addition to the internal activities, we also co-hosted external events with several schools and colleges in our surrounding communities.
Walden’s Worcester clinic patients wrote “Goodbye” letters to their eating disorders and also wrote motivational letters to future patients.
Walden’s South Windsor clinic made recovery T-shirts.
Walden’s Peabody and South Windsor clinics went mirror-less, covering up all their mirrors with motivational quotes and images and the Peabody clinic honored NEDAW’s 2015 theme, “#IHadNoIdea” by doing a Post-It activity with their adolescent patients and their families.
Walden’s Braintree and Northampton clinics practiced Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – by practicing the DBT activity/skill A Life worth Living to motivate patients toward recovery.
Peabody – Walden’s Peabody clinic co-hosted a screening and discussion of the film, “Miss Representation” with Endicott College. In attendance were about 30 individuals including students, community and faculty members. The discussion following the movie was led by Bob Bordonaro, the director of Walden’s Peabody clinic, and a member of Endicott’s counseling staff.
All Walden locations created their own recovery tapestries to be hung in each of their respective clinics. Below are some examples from Walden’s Waltham Partial Hospitalization Program and Worcester clinic patients.
All Walden locations did something to challenge themselves individually (ie. tried a challenge food or wore their hair up/down)
Walden’s Northampton clinic declared Challenge Wednesday a make-up-free day which was both challenging AND liberating to both clients and staff.
Our Waltham Intensive Outpatient Program for adult patients went to Panera for a challenge dinner.
The South Windsor clinic wrote letters to Ellen DeGeneres to bring more awareness to eating disorders and to express their frustration with the unrealistic way women and men are portrayed in the media.
Walden Behavioral Care’s main hospital and residential program location in Waltham hosted its annual, “Keep Hope Alive” event to remember lives we have lost and to honor those who have recovered or are working toward recovery. This year, Natalie Hill, M.Div, LICSW and assistant director of Walden’s Braintree clinic, led the memorial service and involved the attendees by encouraging them to participate in a reading and to light a memorial candle for patients that we have lost. Two families were in attendance and we were able to spend extra time with them following the service to share memories and eat lunch with them. Another highlight from the event was the “Give Hope, Take Hope” tree. We asked event participants who were willing to write an inspirational quote or message on a card and hang it from the tree. After the messages were hung, we asked anyone who could use some inspiration or recovery motivation to take one of the cards. After the ceremony, the tree was taken to admissions for those in the waiting room to participate in the activity.
Northampton – Walden Behavioral Care’s Northampton clinic joined Lisa’s Light of Hope (a nonprofit organization in Western Mass focused on educating the community and raising funds to help support those effected by eating disorders) to provide an educational evening for the Agawam community. Stephanie Haines, Walden’s prevention education specialist, and Angela Rowan, the Northampton clinic’s program director, discussed with parents how to foster a positive body image in their school-aged children.
South Windsor – Walden Behavioral Care’s South Windsor clinic co-hosted an eating disorders panel with the student group, Active Minds on campus at the University of Connecticut. The panel went over basic eating disorder information in addition to covering some special populations such as athletes and eating disorders. The panel included Rebekah Doweyko, director of the South Windsor clinic, Sarah Hewes, assistant director of the South Windsor Clinic, Christopher Griffin, the South Windsor clinic’s binge eating disorder clinician and medical consultant for the South Windsor Clinic, Dr. Qureshi. Members of the audience consisted of students, student athletes, current patients and their families’, as-well-as therapists from the community. We had a total of about 75 people in attendance for this event.
Waltham – Walden Behavioral Care’s Waltham clinic co-hosted a screening and discussion of the movie, “Tough Guise” with Brandeis University. The movie discusses the “cult of masculine violence” that modern-day media has created and how it can affect body image and the way with which men and women relate to each other. The audience consisted of current Walden patients, Brandeis Counseling Center staff, students and community members.
Mind – Body Thursday:
Walden’s Worcester and Waltham clinics made self soothing bags
Walden’s Braintree and Northampton clinics created their own eye-masks and self-soothing kits.
Walden’s Peabody clinic practiced distress tolerance through a guided meditation exercise.
The South Windsor clinic played with a therapy dog named Rosie
Northampton – Walden’s Northampton clinic joined the Active Minds student group at UMass Amherst in hosting an eating disorder panel. Angela Rowan, Northampton’s program director, two student recovery speakers and a therapist from the UMass Counseling Center made up the panel. There were approximately 80 students in attendance.
Braintree – Walden’s Braintree clinic co-hosted an Athlete and Eating Disorders Panel with Stonehill College in North Easton, MA. The auditorium was packed with over 100 people including students, community members and previous/current Walden patients and staff. The panel included Becky Bernat, director of Walden’s residential programs, staff from the Braintree Clinic, Emily Slager, director of Walden’s Waltham outpatient programs, a recovery speaker and Caroline Lavery, a dietitian on Walden’s Alcott Unit. The panel discussed general eating disorder information and information specific to athletes including medical complications, warning signs, Orthorexia and treatment specific to the athletes and eating disorder population. Caroline also spoke about the necessity of proper fueling for an athlete, what happens to an athlete that is under-fueled and what an athlete’s food plate should look like.
All Walden staff members, system-wide, were encouraged to participate in “Be Comfortable in Your ‘Genes’” day within which everyone could wear jeans to work with a $5.00 donation to Walden Center for Education and Research.
Walden’s Braintree and Northampton clinics patients’ did recovery and relapse prevention planning
Walden’s Worcester clinic wrote a goodbye letter to their eating disorder and then visualized throwing them into a fire.
Walden’s Waltham clinic did many groups that focused on what life without an eating disorder would look and feel like.
Walden’s South Windsor clinic told patients to bring in their scales for a scale smashing exercise.
While it is wonderful that there is a designated week in which people across the United States come together to raise awareness and spread knowledge about eating disorders, I think it’s important to remember this population every week of the year because those who struggle with eating disorders struggle 365 days of the year, not just 7. With proper funding, education and support, we can work toward beating ED…and wouldn’t that be amazing.
How did you celebrate NEDAW this year? We’d love to hear from you!
About the author:
Natalie Cohen is the Senior Marketing and Community Relations Associate for Walden Behavioral Care. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Maine in Orono. Her favorite part of working at Walden is being able to act as an advocate for clients suffering with mental illnesses and interacting with other eating disorder professionals in the community. Ms. Cohen’s passions include writing, social media and event planning. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys spending time with her dog Bella, family and friends.