Active Minds sponsors Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Active Minds raises awareness of eating disorders within the W&L community

Alex Kinzer

Washington and Lee’s chapter of Active Minds sponsored Eating Disorder Awareness Week from March 1-4.

The week’s featured event was the student panel on March 4. Held in Stackhouse Theater, the panel featured several W&L students who shared their experiences dealing with and recovering from eating disorders.

“From our vulnerability comes strength,” said Lydia Barit, ‘16, who is the current president of W&L’s chapter of Active Minds.

The quote encapsulated a large part of Active Minds’ mission in organizing events, such as Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

“The object of Active Minds is mainly to destigmatize mental illnesses,” Barit said. “We do that through a variety of efforts, and we try to get as many people involved as possible and make talking about mental health issues something that shouldn’t be behind closed doors all the time and shouldn’t be kept inside of someone who’s suffering.”

Kenzie Shand, ‘17, is a member of Active Minds and feels that the events, such as the student panel, are influential.

“They let people know that they’re not alone,” Shand said. “I feel like a lot of people who have eating disorders secretly struggle and if you’re not reaching out to other people you don’t really know who else is in this struggle with you.”

Although Eating Disorder Awareness Week is not simply a W&L event, as Active Minds campus chapters organize similar events across the country, the week may be especially important for W&L students.

According to statistics made available by Active Minds, W&L has a higher percentage of students suffering from eating disorders in nearly every category.

The 2014 National College Health Assessment revealed that 3.9 percent of female and 0.6 percent of male students at W&L were treated by a professional for anorexia. 2.1 percent of female and .6 percent of male students were treated for bulimia.

Nationally, 1.5 percent of females and 0.5 percent of males were treated for anorexia and 1.4 percent of females and 0.4 percent of males were treated for bulimia in the same time period.

These numbers grow when one considers that only one in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment, meaning that more students at W&L could be suffering from eating disorders.

It is not clear why the percentage of students with eating disorders at W&L is higher than the national average.

Both Barit and Shand nonetheless agreed that one step forward is creating an environment where courageous students are able to be vulnerable and speak openly about the topic without the fear of stigma.

“Having people share their stories, knowing they’re not alone, kind of erases the stigma of this being a super-secret illness you can’t share with anyone,” Shand said.

Barit expressed her ultimate hope for Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

“It’s a pretty big goal to say that I hope that everyone with an eating disorder will reach recovery within a year,” Barit said. “But I would really like to see that happen out of this week.”

Other events during the week included a “Grace Race,” in which W&L students could keep track of the number of compliments they’d given out during the day and win a dinner for two at Bistro, and a free yoga class taught by Wendy Orrison from Center of Gravity.