SEVERE STIGMA SURROUNDING ANOREXIA NERVOSA
This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
When growing up, food can be a huge stressor within families. The atmosphere surrounding food consumption can inflict a large amount of pressure, especially on high school students. By living in close proximity to anorexia, I have personally experienced the effects it can have not only on the victim but on those around them. My cousin still struggles with anorexia after being in and out of rehab for 3 years. The reason she struggles so much in staying healthy after rehab is the stigma that surrounds eating disorders in our society. Without realizing, people can trigger an insecurity within someone that can easily send them into a spiral – while it is near impossible to identify what that trigger is before speaking, we can learn to be more sensitive regarding direct comments about weight/eating habits. Due to their lack of knowledge on the subject, people can joke, judge, or criticize someone who struggles with an eating disorder, causing them to feel more insecure about their outward appearance. While this is a big task to tackle, it can be achieved:
Awareness about eating disorders is severely lacking in our community. Everyday men and women face harsh pressure to look a certain way, inevitably driving them into unhealthy practices. If we can eliminate the stigma surrounding eating disorders, and educate others about the disease, then the reputation that has been built up about victims of eating disorders could crumble down. About 3% of children 13-18 struggle with a severe eating disorder. This does not include the less severe cases, and of course, does not include the unreported cases. It is predicted that a more likely percentile would be 4.5-5% of children 13-18 struggle with an eating disorder. Some of the common triggers among these teenagers is a comment about food consumption or diet, a comment about their weight/direct bullying, or even as simple as staring at someone while they eat. The action’s intentions are rarely ever for the purpose of hurting the other person, but most commonly just said out of ignorance of miscommunication. If we can educate more teenagers about eating disorders, we could extinguish the judgement and stigma surrounding the disease, along with prevented the unintended criticisms said throughout the halls of American high schools.
These are prototypes of possible posters that I plan to hang up around school to spark conversation among students.
I also plan to hand out pamphlets to students who wish to learn more about the disease and would like to further explore what they could do to help.
Along with these posters and pamphlets, a speaker will come to our schools who has either struggled with, or is struggling with an eating disorder. This speaker will give students a perspective on the real life of a victim of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or any other type of disorder. They would be able to convey the triggers of insecurities they experience in their everyday life – hopefully providing students with the means to regulate what they say
After this speech, students will divide up into their homeroom (gender segregated with about 6-7 people per homeroom) to discuss this topic on a more personal, relaxed basis. If they wish, students can talk about how an eating disorder may have effected them personally, or how it may have effected someone they know. It is my hope that this will open up further discussion regarding eating disorders within high schools.
To pilot my program, I am planning to with our deans and principle to discuss the further steps. I will also involve our school counselors in the program to give a more professionally trained perspective. Aside to hanging up informational posters around campus, I am planning on having a speaker come in a talk our school as a whole, and then afterwards, divide into smaller discussion groups to talk more personally about how eating disorders may effect each one of us. My hope is that this programs will continue beyond my time and continue to be a tradition held among our community.