Please see Kitty Westin on her recent TEDx Talk discussing ending the stigma and shame around eating disorders and the importance of being an advocate for mental illness.
By Caroline Kinskey
I traveled alone for the first time to attend EDC Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. I was nervous to be flying and traveling alone, but also excited and incredibly grateful that The Emily Program Foundation provided me with this opportunity to advocate for those suffering with eating disorders.
After breakfast and chatting with other advocates on Capitol Hill, Amy Klobuchar gave the opening address. She was inspiring, and I am proud to live in a state that has a senator who passionately advocates for the eating disorders community. Message training followed, which informed the advocates of the goals for the day, approach strategies in telling our personal stories, and knowing what we need of the people of Congress. Specifically, we need Congress to recognize National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and urge the CDC to re-include eating disorder surveillance questions in national surveillance surveys. The team from Minnesota met with five congressional staffers. The staffers were very receptive, and it was evident that our meetings and personal stories made a difference. EDC Advocacy Days have made a marked impact in the past, and they continue to influence policy on Capitol Hill regarding eating disorders. Although there has been change, our work is not done.
Through this experience, I realized how fortunate I am to live in a country where your voice matters and is influential.
It was inspiring to hear people who have recovered from their eating disorders tell their personal stories and pay it forward by advocating for others still struggling. As a graduate student in clinical psychology who wants to work with individuals with eating disorders, contribute to the research, and continue to be an advocate, this experience was invaluable.
On April 5th, 2017 The Emily Program Foundation and scholarship recipients traveled to Washington D.C. for the Eating Disorders Coalition’s National Advocacy Day. Below are the reflections of our award recipients from their first experiences on The Hill.
Award Recipient Jamie Margetta:
This past week I was given the privilege to attend the Eating Disorders Coalition Day on the Hill. I was graciously awarded a scholarship from the Emily Program Foundation to fund my travels to Washington, D.C. to advocate alongside EDC members who are as passionate as I am about eating disorder advocacy. I expected to walk away with a new experience and a sense of accomplishment from advocating, but I ended up walking away with so much more. My experience at EDC’s Advocacy Day was eye opening, exciting, educating, and overall an experience I won’t soon forget. I was given the opportunity to meet with House and Senate representatives and express my passion to eating disorder research, early intervention, and education. It was very empowering to be able to express not only my passion on this subject, but why others should care. Presenting fact sheets, personal stories, and evidence that eating disorders matter and they need help was very gratifying. I am so thankful the Emily Program Foundation gave me the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and truly express my concerns and needs for the eating disorder community. I met the most amazing group of people and learned so much from the advocates. This is definitely an experience I will not forget, and I am so grateful I was able to advocate on behalf of friends, family, and loved ones who have experienced the challenges of an eating disorder. Your voice matters!
Award Recipient Molly Britt:
As a university undergrad, I did not believe that I could make a difference in the political world without any experience. My experience at the 2017 EDC Advocacy Day completely changed my view of that. While working alongside women and men of all ages, I got to meet with congressional staffers and spread the word about the importance of eating disorders and how the political world could help. It was the first Advocacy Day since the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act which was the first time in history that specific language regarding eating disorders was written into policy. Our mission was to prompt the members of congress to put this policy into action. I was overwhelmed by the support that so many of these staffers conveyed toward our cause and felt as though I was really making a difference. To top of the great day, I got to hear Amy Klobuchar – one of Minnesota’s senators and a driving force for eating disorder policy – speak and thank us for all our hard work. This day has motivated me to participate more in policy change surrounding eating disorders and all other mental health causes.
Background Information –
Between October – December, 2016 The Emily Program Foundation worked with two student groups enrolled in an advanced professional studies program called VANTAGE through Minnetonka Public Schools. This partnership aimed to create a meaningful and professional learning opportunity for the students in VANTAGE as they completed quality, useable products for the Foundation. The Digital Journalism group created an educational video on eating disorders for teens while the Health Sciences team created a research report with a data analysis on teen’s experiences with their own body image, media influences and knowledge of eating disorders. This team also shared their learning experiences through a three-series blog posting, please see their reflections on what they learned through this process.
Now that you have met the VANTAGE Health Sciences team in our post last week, the students share their research report experience.
After meeting with the Emily Program Foundation for the first time, our group was extremely excited to begin working with them. We first took a tour of one of the treatment facilities and received an information session on eating disorders. We all learned a lot more about how the Emily Program structures treatment and how it differs from other treatment facilities. In taking the tour, we got to see lots of different rooms including those dedicated to yoga therapy and to group therapy. Our favorite room was the vault room, as this particular space showed the history of the building and how The Emily Program tries to keep little historical pieces of the buildings they renovate to continue the connection with their communities. After visiting the treatment center, we began to design our survey which is going to be used to collect data on the influence of social media on body image and eating disorders. We talked with Emily Monson, who is our project contact within the Foundation, to make sure that we were respectful of the emotional aspect of the topic and so that we could obtain the correct information. After perfecting our survey, we sent it out to everyone we knew from teachers, other students and even to other schools to make sure that we had a large amount responses and a large demographic. It was so exciting to see all of the responses roll in and to see all of the pie charts of the data change. I think we all sat watching them roll in during our entire project work time, fascinated by watching our work come to fruition.