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The Importance of Eating Disorder Awareness

cw: disordered eating, fat-shaming.

Eating Disorder Awareness week at McGill, organized by SSMU runs from February 4 – 8. Sophia Esterle, VP Student Life, spearheaded the initiative with the goal of raising awareness around eating disorders in relation to stigma and McGill life. Below is an interview with Esterle, addressing what the week’s efforts and  problematic attitudes towards eating disorders.

McGill Daily (MD):  What was the driving catalyst behind SSMU’s Eating Disorder awareness week?

Sofia Esterle (SE): I consider this a very important issue, but I think what drove me to put all this energy and time to organize is my personal experience with it. I have experienced an eating disorder while being a SSMU executive. I recovered from it throughout my term. I know how much of an isolating and terrifying experience it can be. I really wanted have a series of events that talks about this issue and spreads resources. McGill is lacking resources for students to deal with eating disorders.There are a lot of societal and cultural issues around the language and habits that are normalized. I really wanted to address those for the Eating Disorder Awareness week.

MD: What does the week consist of? What kind of events will you host to raise awareness?

SE: We’re hoping to have an art show with art related to this topic. The art would be an expression of their experience. This will take place on February 1. On February 2 and February 3,  we’re hosting discussion groups on campus and and in residence. We’ll have active listeners to facilitate. There is going to be workshop on February 4 with someone from the Douglas institute, and on February 5 or 6, there will be a discussion panel with someone from eating disorder treatment centre, Clinique Baca.

MD: What services does McGill offer for those struggling with eating disorders, if any?

SE: They have counseling services and psychiatric services. An eating disorder is a coping mechanism, and those services will help you find someone if you actually can wait until someone is available to see you. They can help you with the issues that may have lead to it. They have two part-time dietations, one of them specializes in eating disorders, and that is great, but it’s definitely not enough resources for enough people to have access to them and to have an actual full treatment.

MD: Does McGill marginalize students that struggle with mental illness?

SE: I think McGill, consciously or unconsciously, creates a narrative that asks: are you “bad” enough? Are you in a state “bad” enough to get resources? We shouldn’t get care  if someone is not “bad” enough.” This attitude increases the difficulty of getting care when you’re going through a mental illness or mental health problems, regardless of degree. Getting help is hard enough as it is. This narrative increases barriers to access, which marginalized students.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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