Silencing the Stigma

It is appalling that although nearly one in four girls on campus have admitted to suffering from an eating disorder while at Andover, National Eating Disorder Awareness week has come and gone, and campus has remained silent.

This week marks the effort by the National Eating Disorders Association to bring the causes and treatments of eating disorders to light and to promote improved support systems nationwide. Through the #NEDAwareness campaign, many people are sharing their experiences with eating disorders to encourage others who may be suffering silently to seek help.

According to *The Phillipian’s* 2014 State of the Academy, 22 percent of girls and seven percent of boys on campus admitted to suffering from an eating disorder while at Andover. This percentage does not account for students who may have had eating disorders before coming to Andover, nor does it take into account students who may not have felt comfortable reporting their eating disorder to *The Phillipian*. Given this percentage, it is shocking that we as a school have neglected to acknowledge National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. With all of the discussion surrounding mental illness and the efforts by students and faculty to increase awareness, it seems contradictory to these efforts to ignore such an important opportunity for education. This window for discussion has been missed.

We should have taken this opportunity to work on eliminating stigmas surrounding eating disorders. It is widely thought that an individual must be dangerously underweight or display other overt physical indicators of hunger to have an eating disorder. Many individuals, however, suffer silently. Those who appear to be “healthy” may be skipping meals, binge-eating or over-analyzing their meal and exercise choices. Those who appear to be “confident” may be crumbling under the constant pressure of dominant standards of beauty and body image. Those who appear to be exercising for health benefits may be exercising to a dangerous degree. These are all examples of the less-widely accepted umbrella term of disordered eating.

No one should have to suffer alone. Every individual suffering from an eating disorder should seek help. We should be encouraging discussion, education and preventive measures to ensure that all students know if and when they should reach out. We urge students engaging in any form of disordered eating to talk to a counselor at Graham House or a trusted friend or adult. Students with friends suffering from eating disorders should be kind, respectful and supportive of them, and recognize the validity of all forms of disordered eating. They should encourage these friends to reach out to adults. It’s never too early or too late to seek help.

*This editorial represents the views of* The Phillipian *Editorial Board CXXXVIII.*