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Eating disorder awareness week kicks off

UNC tackles the struggles and stigmas associated with anorexia, bulimia and others

By Tim Hernandez
On March 5, 2017

Last week, across the United States, many programs, organizations and institutions raised awareness for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. UNC joined the cause. Not only were all Group Fitness classes free of charge last week, but UNC also supported the national movement by hosting several awareness classes at a symposium on Thursday. Yet, many were unaware of what exactly the week of awareness entails. 

While free Group Fitness classes may be convenient, what UNC did by supporting this cause is a huge message to the mental health community. 

“So long as you have an hour open, we will see you as a walk-in,”  said Assistant Director/ Training Director and Licensed Psychologist Renee Gilkey. The counseling center is located on the second floor of Cassidy Hall. 

Stigma perpetually surrounds this issue, and so, as many took advantage of the free awareness perks that the university offered. The reality of this mental illness is daunting, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated disorders. A plethora of Americans suffer from these mental illnesses. In fact, with just the two most well-known eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia, nearly 2.5 percent of the American population is afflicted. Applying this number to just the UNC population, this means that out of the 12,000 students who attend this university, 300 individuals are impacted by these mental illnesses. 

UNC is taking steps to make sure support is offered. By hosting this Week of Awareness for Eating Disorders, the university not only showed its support for the week, but brought it to the forefront of what is going on around campus. In the email that is sent out daily by the Dean of Students Office, on Feb. 24, they alerted all students to the resources available to students for this last week, which included a symposium all day on March 2 and ended with a keynote speaker Lyndsey Varkula, a psychologist for the Center of Balanced Living in Columbus, Ohio. This event even ended with a scale smashing, a symbol for the dismantling of the stigma that surrounds these very real illnesses. 

Quite simply, UNC’s ability to bring the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week into a normalized conversation around our campus was not only an educational opportunity for many members of the UNC community, but was a symbol of support for any who may have needed support in their mental health journey. For future reference, the Counseling Center at UNC takes walk-in appointments from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and there is also a 24-hour hotline that is set up through their usual phone number, 970-351-2496, for anyone who would like to access this support system.

Ultimately the stigma surrounding these mental illnesses is ever-present, but with the university addressing them with the slogan of “Educate, Inspire, Advocate,” it illustrates that there must be  awareness every week, not just when cycling class is free. 

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