Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor
So-called “national” awareness days, weeks and months are constantly occurring. For example, this week the U.S. is celebrating various one week long holidays including but not limited to Endometriosis Awareness Week, National Consumer Protection Week, National Dental Assistants Recognition Week, and Save Your Vision Week. While all of these one week long holidays vary in subject and importance (I personally do not find it important that this week is also National Texas Cowboy Poetry week), their purpose is the same: bringing awareness to an issue.
On March 3, National Eating Disorders Awareness week ended, with minimal fanfare. Unfortunately, I can say with a decent level of confidence that many people, including many Berry people, were not aware of this important week. This week was completely devoted to bringing awareness to the prevalence of eating disorders in America, but sadly many Americans were unaware of the week itself.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, a group dedicated to the comprehensive analysis of eating disorders in America, 20 million females and 10 million males currently suffer from eating disorders. Furthermore, 1 percent of college-aged Americans suffer from anorexia, 4 percent from bulimia, and 1 percent from binge-eating disorder. These statistics are not even inclusive of other associative eating disorders.
We all feel insecure about our bodies. Our society glorifies idealistic but unrealistic images of the human form, refusing to acknowledge that everyone is different. Suffering from an eating disorder only magnifies those insecurities, and leads to debilitating and sometimes deadly symptoms. Victims of eating disorders describe them as all encompassing, in which they feel ashamed not only of their bodies, but of their disorders, and their inability to control their actions.
As a society we choose not to talk about eating disorders because they can be uncomfortable. However, in abstaining from such discussion we only entrench the idea that they are not worth our discussion. We send the message to those who have eating disorders that their struggles are unimportant. Rather than offering support, we often prefer to pretend these problems don’t exist. Meanwhile, millions of people in our country are suffering in isolation and fear. The first step in overcoming this giant problem as a human race is starting a conversation. But how do we do that?
We need to start by creating a positive environment for people to heal. In an individualistic society like America, we often ignore the community building necessary for mental health. Luckily, since we go to a school like Berry with such a strong community, we can overcome this.
Check up on your friends, classmates and neighbors. Work to ensure that the people you love themselves as much as you do. The world is a big, scary place where it is easy to feel alone. No one deserves to feel alone. If we can work together to prevent people from feeling alone, we can start to eradicate eating disorders and other mental health ailments.