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Freedom Revolution’ aimed at SMC women

Mandi Stirone | Friday, February 9, 2007

Any time 1,500 women are combined in a small setting, competition – especially pertaining to body image – is bound to ensue. But while many women at Saint Mary’s believe eating disorders are a problem, those working to fix it say few are aware of how deep the issue runs.

“Eating disorders are a huge problem for our specific population – millions of college women suffer from eating disorders. [Saint Mary’s] is very competitive and there is a strong focus on appearance,” said junior Justine Ray, the head of Freedom Revolution at the College.

Posted throughout campus, particularly in bathroom stalls, the fliers for the self-proclaimed “revolution” boast: “We’re making Saint Mary’s a place where women accept and celebrate our bodies.”

Ray clarified the Freedom Revolution’s goals.

“I’m starting a movement that allows women to be satisfied with their bodies,” she said. “So many people in our society are ready for a culture change, and it’s beginning here at [Saint Mary’s].”

The movement plans different activities including fundraisers, meetings and on-campus lectures. Organizers have their eye on motivational speaker Jenni Schaefer, who lectures nationwide on the topic of eating disorders.

Residence Life currently runs Freedom Revolution, but the group hopes to be affiliated with the Counseling Center as well.

Angela Bryant, licensed mental health counselor of the Saint Mary’s Counseling Center, said a good portion of the campus struggles with body image, but generally only about 15-20 students a year admit to having eating disorders.

When a student who believes a friend has an eating disorder comes into the Counseling Center, the first thing Bryant does is commend her for caring, she said. Risking a friend’s anger in order to help her is admirable, Bryant said, and she often sees how the eating disorder impacts both the student and the friend.

Then, Bryant said, she tells the student how to confront and deal with her friend’s problem and encourages the student to bring her friend to the Counseling Center.

When a student comes in who admits to having an eating disorder, the process is more complex. The initial action is creating an environment where the student feels safe and secure enough to trust the counselor with all of her problems. The counselor then works to help the student find ways to overcome her problems, both physical and emotional.

The options can range from traditional counseling to in or outpatient rehabilitation, Bryant said.

The Center also works with Health and Wellness, nutritionists, the student’s family physician and other sources to help the student overcome her disorder. The Center’s waiting room houses a mini-library of books and pamphlets, including 22 books on eating disorders.

The Freedom Revolution can be reached at freedom@saintmarys.edu. The Counseling Center, located in 166 LeMans Hall (in the main lobby by the fireplace), can be reached at (574) 284-4565.