An Internal Enemy and a Broken System

January 12, 2021

“Everyone hates you, and they want you to disappear.” 

You might have heard some form of this once on the playground. Or not at all, if you’re lucky. One time, it can roll off your back. 

Hearing it when you eat, sleep, walk, talk, and breathe makes it harder to do that. No matter your mental toughness, you begin to believe it. 

For Kristie Stevens*, Ben Jacobs*, and many others, this voice is present at all hours of the day.

Also, there’s no antidote. 

“I think we have much more awareness,” said Claudia Stanley*, the parent of a child with an eating disorder. “People know that there isn’t a silver bullet or magic pill […], but we still have a long way to go.”

Beat Eating Disorders, a charity based in the United Kingdom, states that it can take up to eight years to recover from anorexia. Catching it in its early stages can make all the difference. 

With this in mind, Motta and The Alliance staff firmly believe that education is the key to prevention. 

“So much of what we do at The Alliance is going to doctor’s offices, clinics, and social service agencies because we’re going to see eating disorders in all of these different places,” Motta said. “If they know what to look for, it makes diagnosis more accurate.”

While it’s a good start, education can’t do it alone. However, with representation as its sidekick, the odds begin to change. 

Or so believes Dr. Barbara Kessel. 

A psychiatrist in Aurora, Colorado, Kessel states that accurate representation of eating disorders in the media could encourage others to speak out.

If a kid sees that one of their favorite athletes has struggled with an eating disorder and is talking about that openly, other people might realize that a person that they look up to is addressing it, so they can too.”

— Dr. Barbara Kessel

“If a kid sees that one of their favorite athletes has struggled with an eating disorder and is talking about that openly, other people might realize that a person that they look up to is addressing it, so they can too,” Kessel said.

However, for many, socioeconomic status is an obstacle to receiving the medical care they need.

“Eating disorder treatment is incredibly costly and generally entails an inpatient program, a residential program, a full-day program, and other appointments,” Motta said. 

For Inpatient and Residential treatment, patients live in a hospital setting to receive the maximum level of care. A Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) is a treatment program for a portion of the day, and Outpatient care consists of appointments with care providers. 

Access to these services is highly dependent on someone’s financial situation or insurance coverage. 

“Without insurance, one day of residential treatment can cost $30,000,” Motta said. “And, there are many people in this country who are uninsured.”

In 2017, the U.S. Census found that 27.6 million people had no form of insurance, barring them from receiving economically sustainable help.

So, what can we do?

Change starts with our choices, but Capitol Hill can make it a reality. 

Current legislation surrounding mental health will control access to insurance, resources in schools, and employee protections. Know where your elected officials stand.

Everyone’s experiences are different, and their stories teach us how to make the world a better place; on screens, in schools, or at the dinner table.

It might be a held hand or an “I’m here if you need me.”

A postcard or distraction.

An honest conversation or scheduling a therapy appointment.

“Look, I know these feelings are uncomfortable,” Stevens said. “But until we change society’s view of eating disorders, we continue to push them on other people. How does that make our world a better place?” 

*This name has been changed to protect the anonymity of the source, in accordance with Carlmont Media’s anonymous sourcing policy.

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