Archive for Action Alert

Supporting The Emily Program Foundation

Our Community Educator Shares her Experience with Our Work, and Why Your Support Matters.
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Caring is the first step to making a difference in our area of work!

Why I Care

Advocating for mental health and promoting positive body image has always been important to me. Before I even considered starting my year of service with the Foundation, I researched unrealistic beauty standards and their influences on how we see people, including ourselves. At work I talk about harmful expectations of our bodies nearly every day, and my growing understanding of the mind-body connection is that it’s interrelated. One affects the other for better or worse. I’ve known this fact for a long time, and now I’m educating others about eating disorders, a mental illness that directly impacts both.

Having learned so much as a Community Educator for the Foundation, I’ve been hyper-aware of how people around me talk about their bodies. I find it empowering when friends open up to me about their own experiences; one because they trust me, and two because sharing stories related to mental illness helps reduce stigma. Hearing stories from strangers elicits further recognition that as a society we have an unhealthy relationship with food and our bodies. One of these conversations particularly stands out:

While at a community event, a group of adolescents came up to talk with me. The oldest explained the difficulty of accepting her body’s shape. She told me she would skip meals and constantly exercise. She said her siblings teased her because she wasn’t as thin as them. She couldn’t have been older than 14.

Listening to her struggles evoked two emotions: sadness for what this smart, lovely young girl of color was going through, and gratitude that she chose to share that with me.

Now be honest, were you initially picturing a white girl? She was also wearing a hijab. Does that change your perception of eating disorders? I ask because oftentimes we overlook the fact that eating disorders affect anyone of any age, race, gender, socioeconomic background, and religion.

Eating disorders are prevalent, and they affect two things we live with every day: our minds and our bodies. Caring about mental health means encouraging self-care in others and supporting organizations such as The Emily Program Foundation that enable individuals to do so.

Why Your Support Matters

Half of all people know someone with an eating disorder.

-National Eating Disorder Association

The story I shared above is not an isolated experience. Reports from the National Eating Disorder Association show eating disorders affect at least 70 million individuals worldwide. Almost half of those people are American, including 200,000 Minnesotans. In a MN student survey, we learned that at least 11% of MN high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and 52% of adolescent girls along with 23% of adolescent boys experience disordered eating in Minnesota. And eating disorders don’t just affect our children. The fastest growing segment of the population being diagnosed with eating disorders is middle-aged women, and 30% of men in the U.S. have an eating disorder. I could go on about the statistics of individuals being directly impacted by eating disorders, but above all, what summons your support is the fact that half of all people know someone experiencing disordered eating. It’s also important to remember that people suffering from eating disorders oftentimes cannot get better without the support of others. In other words, we are all in this together.

 

 

 

 

Written by Liz Parroquin

 

 

Take Action for Mental Health Reform

#PassS2680#MentalHealthReform (1)

 

by Kitty Westin, eating disorder activist

The last time I wrote to you was on July 7; I was hardly able to contain my excitement! It was the day after the United States House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (422 to 2) in favor of mental health reform, which included provisions from the Anna Westin Act. At the time I told you I believed that after a 16-year marathon we were nearing the finish line. After 16 years of hard work and the commitment of thousands of grassroots advocates we were close to passing the first eating disorders specific legislation in the history of the US Congress. As I watched House Member after House Member vote “yes” I allowed myself to hope and to believe that this long journey was coming to an end.

Today, I am writing to give you an update and ask you to join me in a vitally important effort to push our bill past the finish line. The finish line is still in sight and I am still hopeful that we will reach it. However, if we hope to cross it before the 114th Congress adjourns at the end of the year we need to rally the troops and make one final epic effort.

The Eating Disorders Coalition is organizing a Virtual Action Day on August 30th. We are asking people from across the United States to contact their Senators. This is a national effort involving several prominent advocacy organization and thousands of individuals. We are collaborating with APA, MHA, APA, NAMI, and Sandy Hook Promise to do a unified virtual action week…with the eating disorders community and Sandy Hook Promise’s day being August 30th. Let’s show the Senate how active, committed, involved and vocal the eating disorders community is! Every voice is important and every voice matters.

We need to put A LOT of pressure on the Senate to pass the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680) this September. The Eating Disorders Coalition was able to get provisions from the Anna Westin Act into the Senate bill and when S. 2680 passes so does our language! There are other issues that the Senate will be considering when they reconvene in September and we need to make certain that mental health reform is a top priority.

Because this is an election year the Fall session will be very short, only a few weeks. With the uncertainty of the election season we must make our voices heard. We need you to encourage your networks, families, friends, neighbors…the mail man…everyone to participate!

The EDC makes it easy and quick to email or call your Senators.

We are targeting ALL Senators and we are putting extra effort to reach Senate Majority leadership and Senators in re-election campaigns. The following Senators are key: McConnell (Kentucky), Alexander (Tennessee), Ayotte (New Hampshire), Toomey (Pennsylvania), Kirk (Illinois), Johnson (Wisconsin), Burr (North Carolina), Rubio (Florida), Murkowski (Alaska), and Portman (Ohio). We’re also targeting Senator Minority leadership—Reid (Nevada), Schumer (New York), Franken (Minnesota), Klobuchar (Minnesota), Stabenow (Michigan), and Warren (Virginia).

Please help us cross the finish line. The time is now and with your help we can get this done. Mental health reform will help countless Americans who are struggling with mental health issues including millions of people who suffer from eating disorders. I promise that I will send photos from the Senate Chamber in September when the bill passes and standing next to President Obama as he signs it into law!

With deep gratitude,

Kitty

One Giant Leap

Guest Blog Post by Kitty Westin.

One giant leap for the eating disorders community.

-Jenna Tregarthen, Recovery Record.

I was glued to my TV Wednesday afternoon, watching C-SPAN, as the US House debated the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, HR2646. As members from both parties stood up and proclaimed their support for the bill I dared to hope that it might actually pass. I slowly allowed myself to believe that after a 16-year marathon we were getting close to the finish line, the first of several finish lines. When the votes started coming in I held my breath but soon dissolved into tears as the YES votes multiplied. When the votes were in, the total was 422 yes votes to 2 no votes. In this very partisan Congress this was amazing in itself. But, the more amazing news is that provisions from the Anna Westin Act were included in the bill! For the first time in the history of the United Sates Congress, eating disorder specific legislation passed the US House.  The bill includes key pieces of the Anna Westin Act including the following:

 

Information and Awareness on Eating Disorders, which allows for the update of public information, resources and prevention programs related to eating disorders to include current findings and research for the advancement of public awareness about the types of eating disorders, the prevalence and consequences of eating disorders, and ways to prevent eating disorders.

Education and Training on Eating Disorders to facilitate the identification of programs to educate and train health professionals and school personnel to identify eating disorders, intervene early and provide appropriate referral or treatment services.

Clarification of Existing Parity Rules, such that if a group health plan or insurance company provides coverage for eating disorder benefits, including residential treatment, the insurance issuer must provide the benefits consistent with insurance laws.

This was indeed a giant step and a victory for us but we are not done. Now it is on to the Senate. The Senate has a mental health reform bill that they will vote on in September. The good news is that Anna Westin Act language is included in the Senate mental health reform bill. Once the bill passes the Senate, both bills go to what is called “Conference Committee”. The Conference Committee includes people from the House and the Senate. They are charged with creating a combined bill that will go to the President for his signature.

We are close! Thank you to each and every one of you who has provided support in this journey.  I am hopeful that very soon a 16 year long journey will come to a successful end and we will have Federal legislation that addresses eating disorders.

For more information about The Anna Westin Act and HR2646 go to; www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org.

Anna Westin Act needs your support!

Today as the Foundation and the Eating Disorders Coalition lobby in Washington, D.C., we need advocates like YOU to call, email, tweet, and post to Members of Congress to sign on to the Anna Westin Act.

The Eating Disorders Coalition made it super easy to do, taking only about 1-2 minutes. The links below will provide you with a pre-written email and word-by-word phone script.

VLD Spring 2016

Mental Health Day on the Hill

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Come advocate with us to increase the awareness of eating disorders in the mental health community and support mental health policy change.



MHDOH

For more information visit:
www.namihelps.org or www.mentalhealthmn.org

Contact Kiki Schmit if you are interested in joining The Emily Program Foundation at the Mental Health Day on the Hill.

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