Eating Disorders Nova Scotia is offering several events to mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which started Thursday and runs to Feb. 7, culminating in the launch of its new online peer support service on Wednesday.
Michelle Hebert-Boyd, director of the community-based organization, said the week is an annual national event geared toward raising awareness of the devastating problem.
“It’s really a time for us to talk about what eating disorders are and try to bust some myths, end some stigma and educate people about how prevalent and deadly these diseases are,” Hebert-Boyd said on Thursday.
“We estimate that about one in 10 Canadians will have an eating disorder or disordered eating some time in their life. So that’s a pretty significant number. For girls and women, the estimate is about one in six will develop an eating disorder by age 20.”
She said there is also a high prevalence for men but there is not a lot of data about it because men are less likely to seek help.
On Friday night, there will be a yoga and self-care workshop at the Maritime Conservatory of the Performing Arts, starting at 7 p.m.
“There’s going to be yoga, meditation and some reflective journaling exercises so that people can really touch on some self-care to get the Eating Disorders Awareness Week started,” Hebert-Boyd said.
On Monday, a panel discussion will be held at the Halifax Central Library, starting at 7 p.m., featuringseveral expert guests: Todd Leader, a well-knownspeaker on mental health issues; family physician Dr. Ajantha Jayabarthan; Laura Mofina, one of EatingDisorders Nova Scotia’s peer mentors; and Dr. Aaron Keshen, the head of the QEII eating disorders clinic.
“It’s open to the public and there’s no cost to attend, so we’re hoping as many people as possible will come out,” Hebert-Boyd said. “The topic is going to be the barriers to eating disorder recovery, . . . looking at what needs to change in the mental health system to make it easier for people to come forward for treatment and support.”
The crowning event of the week is the launching of the online peer support service.
“We are so excited about that,” Hebert-Boyd said. “It’s a big, big step for us because we’ve really wanted to expand our support groups to outside of HRM. We know there’s a need because we get lots of calls from people across the province who have a really difficult time finding any mental health support in their community, especially if they’re in a small, rural community.”
People don’t have to leave the comfort of their own home to take part.
“It’s accessible and anonymous and free,” Hebert-Boyd said.
The sessions will be offered once a week on Wednesday nights. Access is through a portal on the Eating Disorders Nova Scotia website. It works like a chat room. There will be a moderator, who is an experienced peer mentor, and people can participate as much or little as they want.
Hebert-Boyd said there is funding to support it for six months and the organization would welcome the chance to increase the number of sessions.