By Rachel Cannon |Staff Writer|
Eating disorders wreak havoc on not only the physical but the mental health of those that suffer from them. The number of those suffering rises every year.
Female college students are by far at the greatest risk for developing such a problem.
According to the Massachusetts Eating Disorders Association, up to 40 percent of college women suffer from disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder (BED).
That means if there are 15 women in you classroom as you read this, odds are that up to six of them are endangering their health through extreme dieting, binging, purging, or some combination of the three.
On top of the damage this is exerting on their bodies, they are also dealing with the anxiety, depression and general distress that this disorder has brought into their lives.
These numbers are shocking. Which is why I was astounded to find how little local universities, including CSUSB, are doing to help students with eating disorders.
Upon investigation, I was told that students with such problems are referred to off-campus sources to find help.
In my opinion, this is not sufficient. Many students may be hesitant to seek help from such a source, for a variety of reasons.
For one thing, college students are one of the busiest and most-stressed out demographics on the planet (a condition which, incidentally, plays a huge role in the development of eating disorders). Seeking off-campus help may seem impossible to fit into an already-busy schedule.
Additionally, many students may be unsure that their condition is serious enough to warrant such treatment, or may be in denial about the existence of an actual disorder. For such students, an on-campus professional may appear to be a better option.
The greatest obstacle towards off-campus eating disorder treatment centers, however, is the cost.
According to eatingdisordersonline.com, daily costs for inpatient treatment of eating disorders average $1,000 a day. While outpatient treatment is more affordable, the price can still be out of reach for college students without health insurance.
For these and other reasons, it seems to me that an on-campus specialist in eating disorders to whom suffering students can turn for help is essential.
To clarify, CSUSB’s Psychological Counseling Center is home to many great counselors with training pertaining to eating disorders. But my feeling is that these problems are so prevalent and so complicated that at least one professional who deals exclusively with eating disorders is required.
In addition to this huge step, CSUSB also needs to implement more programs to raise awareness and combat these problems.
The Santos Manuel Student Union Pride Center held a talk on March 9 called “The Standard of Beauty” which addressed body image, and the school participates in Fat Talk Free Week every year.
These programs are great, but according to the National Eating Disorders Association, poor body image is only one cause of eating disorders. There are a wide variety of other factors, including low self-esteem, feelings of a lack of control in life or prior physical or sexual abuse, just to name a few.
This is why we require programs which focus specifically on eating disorders and all their causes. Most importantly, students need to be taught how to recognize and how to deal with them, whether they or their peers are suffering.
Until the school improves its resources, if you or someone you know may suffer from an eating disorder, there is help for you. Visit the school’s Psychological Counseling Center or visit its website for a list of local resources and hot-lines available for you to get the help you need.