Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Nov. 30, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

Advocates in Washington strive to destigmatize mental health, eating disorders

     

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Although eating disorders have increased during the pandemic, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Washington and other organizations are working to destigmatize mental health and refer those who need treatment to eating disorder specialty care. NAMI is a grassroots mental health organization that works with local affiliates in communities around the state to aid those affected by mental illness.

Lauren Simonds, executive director of NAMI in Washington, said there is a lack of professional behavioral health providers in all areas, not just eating disorder specialists. She said insurance coverage for treatment, whether it be public or private insurance, poses an additional major barrier.

Simonds said that although eating disorders are diagnosed as behavioral conditions, treatment is long-term, sometimes requiring hospitalization or partial hospitalization. Those treatments require special approval from providers. According to Simonds, denials are common and appeals take a lot of energy and a long time to resolve.

Those who cannot find specialized support groups can attend a NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group, offered at no cost. People can attend virtually in Washington and throughout the country. Mental health counselor Anne Cuthbert said there is also a wide range of literature, podcasts and online support groups so people can connect with others who might have similar experiences.

But stigma still surrounds discussion around eating disorders, and some might be afraid to communicate their struggles. Simonds said people with eating disorders or body dysmorphia often deal with self-stigma due to living in a society where fat-shaming is widely accepted.

On the web

Free NAMI support groups: www.nami.org/Support-Education/Support-Groups

Free NEDA help line: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline

Anne Cuthbert, mental health counselor: foodisnottheenemy.com

Health at Every Size Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/haesbyasdah/about

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: suicidepreventionlifeline.org, 1-800-273-8255

“Our society has only recently started to address the stigma against people with behavioral health conditions,” Simonds said. “It has not, and is still not common, to hear people openly discuss their personal struggles with eating disorders.”

Although there might be a hesitancy to speak out, Valerie Bledsoe encourages those who might be on the fence about seeking help to do it as quickly as possible.

“I know people will oftentimes think they’re not sick enough, or they don’t really have that big of a problem,” Bledsoe said. “Don’t wait for it to get big. Don’t wait for some ‘aha’ moment. Find that little piece of you that wants to get better and nurture it.”

More in This Series

(iStock.com) Advocates in Washington strive to destigmatize mental health, eating disorders
Although eating disorders have increased during the pandemic, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Washington and other organizations are working to destigmatize mental health…
iStock.com Clark County residents with eating disorders struggle to find help
Despite end of COVID lockdowns, Clark County residents with anorexia, other conditions struggle to find help

Did you know?

Though eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose, only 1 in 10 with eating disorders actually seek treatment.

— South Carolina Department of Mental Health

Columbian staff writer

Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

Community Funded Journalism logo
Loading...