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Identifying resources for treating eating disorders

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, January 18, 2007

A recent article in Scholastic, “Confronting the Silence,” stated that eating disorders receive little attention at Notre Dame and student government has planned a conference in February to address the issue. I enthusiastically support efforts to increase a dialogue among students, faculty and staff about eating disorders. I also think it is important to heighten awareness to what is being done to address this problem. The University has a comprehensive approach to the treatment of eating disoders that includes a multi-disciplinary team of providers who collaborate to develop individual treatment plans for students who present with eating and body image concerns. The treatment team consists of a physician and nurse at Health Services with expertise in eating disorders. The University Counseling Center provides individual and group counseling services and nutritional consultation for students. This team consults regularly about clincial needs of students in treatment and has been involved in expanding collaborative efforts to include the dietitian in the athletic department. Team members also provide consultation to faculty, staff and students about eating disorders and how to approach individuals who they have concerns about. Statistics on the number of students on campus with eating disorders may not be available, but the development of this multi-disciplinary team and comprehensive approach to treatment is evidence of the University’s awareness of this problem and commitment to providing resources for students. In October 2005, the UCC hosted a professional conference on eating disorders that brought together treatment providers and experts from across the country to focus on treatment interventions. The conference in February to be hosted by student government seems to be focused on creating a dialogue within the campus community about eating disorders which could be an exciting next step – challenging the campus community to take responsibility for this issue. How can we as a community create an environment that supports direct communication when there are concerns about an individual engaging in unhealthy diet practices or unhealthy comparison of body shape and weight? Can we as a community recognize our biases and beliefs about weight, food, appearance, competition and success and how this impacts the Notre Dame environment? There are eating disorder treatment resources on campus. My hope is that the February conference will encourage members of this community to identify themselves as resources.

Valerie Staples

University Counseling Center

Dec. 6