Letter: Scary facts about mental health and eating disorders

Sadly, noted mostly [at seminar] was the lack of funding for treatment for children with eating disorders.

To the editor:

Early in November, I attended an awareness event on mental health and eating disorders, hosted by our popular talk show host Mr. Phil Johnson at the UBCO, banquet hall. It was organized by the innovative organization named PEACE in Mind (Parents Empowered and Children Encouraged) and UBC’s fourth year nursing students.

Helping us understand and making us aware of the needs in our society, was the panel composed of Christa Akins, founder and director of PEACE in Mind, Dr. Heather Derry a child and youth psychiatrist, Dr. Kim Burrows a paediatrician and Mary Lamoureux, RN, MSN in charge of the Kelowna out-patient program for eating disorders.

I was enlightened on the scary facts that were presented. Sadly, noted mostly was the lack of funding for treatment for children with eating disorders. It seems that governments–both federal and provincial, have a lack of knowledge on how big this problem exists in today’s world.  We see money flow into many other seemingly pressing medical issues, while the “eating disorder” problem remains underfunded and under staffed.

I listened to the stats and was not only shocked but appalled at the treatment unavailable. Sadly, one of the stats presented highlighted the fact that there was a mortality rate of up to 20 per cent of patients suffering with an eating disorder.

Noted was a further fact that the mortality rate for youth between the ages of 15 to 24 is 12 times greater than for all other causes combined.

While many may not see an eating disorder as a concern of theirs, it was quite an eye opener on the long term effects that this could have on a child into adulthood, and how it does affect us all.  An eating disorder is not a choice or life style, however I learned that it has genetic components as well as biological and cultural influences. Social pressure where “thin is in,” and peer pressure at school don’t help a child in recovery.

PEACE in Mind strives for public awareness, knowledge and understanding about children’s mental health issues, and at the same time to raise awareness concerning gaps in youth mental health services. PEACE stands for Parents Empowered and Children Encouraged and was created to provide the community with support, offering advocacy, peer support, resources and education, really a place for solace and comfort.

With all volunteer organizations, funding and volunteers are an ongoing challenge. To combat that PEACE in Mind is offering bed and breakfast to parents with children admitted to the KGH. This I found to be a unique way of funding the daily operations of the non-profit society. I also encourage social service clubs to get involved and assist the society as soon or as much as possible.

Mickey Cooke, Kelowna