Of all mental illnesses, eating disorders have the highest death rate. By age 20, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders says that 86 percent of people will report the onset of an eating disorder. Additionally, on a college campus that was surveyed, 91 percent of women admitted to trying to control their weight by dieting.
Feb. 21-27 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, but despite these statistics related to college age students, no events will be held by any department for CSU-Pueblo students.
“As much as our department would like to provide programming for all of the health and social issue awareness weeks, we don’t have the resources to do so,” explained Gena Alfonso, Director of Student Engagement and Leadership. “The SEAL office does make our best effort to support and collaborate on events that revolve around health and social issues awareness, but we are usually not the ones leading the charge because it does not fall within our mission to provide health education.”
The Health Education and Prevention program is also not hosting any particular events for the week this year, but some event might be in the works for the awareness week next year.
“I didn’t know it was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week,” said Quatisha Franklin, coordinator for HEP. “It’s good to know that. I could probably do something next year around this time.”
The campus Counseling Center and Student Health Services will not be hosting any special events for the week, either.
The Counseling Center reported having such a large amount of cases which prevents them from really getting involved with the campus outside of the individuals who come into their offices.
However, the center and Student Health Services provide education and resources related to eating disorders for students year-round.
The Counseling Center has brochures and informational pamphlets available on eating disorders obtainable for anyone to pick up.
Student Health Services often has offered information about eating disorders at the October Wellness Fair on campus and has trained individuals in recognizing key signs and symptoms of eating disorders, but they are not doing anything for the week outside of the services they already offer.
Cordelia Cameron, an interim counselor for the campus said she estimates that each of the four counselors see on average about one or two students a semester regarding eating disorders.
“Many individuals aren’t even aware they have an eating disorder,” she said. “In its more basic reasoning, it is a need to have control in their lives.”
In Student Health Services, students do generally not come in for the specific reason of getting help with an eating disorder.
Carolyn Daugherty, director of Student Health and Counseling, said she has only referred two students for eating disorder treatment in the past 12 months.
“Both were determined by history, signed and symptoms of presenting complaint. Both denied when initially asked that they had an eating disorder. Both were seen in counseling and are making progress,” she explained.
According to Daugherty, the National Institute of Mental Health recognizes three eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorder.
There are many varying health costs associated with each, from brittle hair and nails to electrolyte imbalance, which can eventually cause heart attack or stroke. Behavioral symptoms of an individual with an eating disorder vary as well, but common signs are suicidal thoughts, laxative use, excessive thinness, obesity and an unusual obsession with weight or food.
“There is no effective way to determine the most common eating disorder on (the) CSU-Pueblo campus as it is rarely reported and most students do not seek help for this disorder,” Daugherty said. “The most common way it is found is when students have symptoms and during the history and or exam signs of eating disorder rediscovered and questioning reveals the issue.”
Cameron recommends that when approaching a person about an eating disorder they may have to encourage getting help and “to not see it in a shameful manner, but as a proactive step towards a healthy lifestyle, a positive choice.”
In addition to campus resources, there are two specific eating disorder clinics in Colorado. One in Colorado Springs and one in Denver. More information as well as a free three-minute screening is also available at nedawareness.org.