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Mental Health Awareness

Eating Disorders in Canada Need a Catalyst for Change — and it’s NIED

nied eating disorder
nied eating disorder
Francine Greenspoon

Francine Greenspoon

Director, National Initiative for Eating Disorders

NIED’s vision is that Canadians impacted by eating disorders receive the care they need.

If you haven’t heard of the National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED), it’s time you did — particularly as it celebrates its 10-year milestone as a catalyst for change for those impacted by eating disorders in Canada.

Eating disorders remain one of the most stigmatized and misunderstood of all mental illnesses with the highest death rate, excluding opioid addiction. Of the 2.7 million Canadians estimated to have an eating disorder, five to ten percent of those with anorexia will die within 10 years and 18 to 20 percent will die within 20 years, with one in five of those deaths being by suicide.

Known for its proactive approach, NIED connects, educates, raises awareness, and takes action to address the needs of Canadians impacted by eating disorders. NIED, in collaboration with the Eating Disorders Association of Canada/Association des Troubles Alimentaires du Canada (EDAC-ATAC), the Eating Disorders Foundation of Canada (EDFC), and the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), has been instrumental in developing and implementing a national strategy based on six key pillars — prevention, public education and awareness, treatment, caregiver support, training, and research. The strategy presented to elected officials in Ottawa contains 50 recommendations aimed at improving outcomes for people living with and recovering from eating disorders.

Collaboration is a hallmark of NIED’s work. NIED’s current initiative, the Economic Burden Study, a first of its kind in Canada, will bring together 30 partners including researchers, scientists, physicians, health care professionals, people with lived experience, and policy-makers to provide a clear, empirically-driven synopsis of the total economic burden (including a psychosocial cost breakdown) that eating disorders impose on the Canadian economy. Key anticipated outcomes from the study will be recommendations for post-pandemic care to generate policy development, the allocation of funding for both community- and hospital-based services, and recommendations for actions required to better support the recovery of those challenged by this serious mental illness.

To support recovery and manage day-to-day challenges of people impacted by eating disorders, NIED has taken great care to produce educational and informational resources geared to improve communication between members of a care team, collaboration between care team members, and transitions between levels of care and between care settings.

Every June 2, in conjunction with 160 countries and activists across the globe, NIED continues to play a vital role in World Eating Disorders Action Day, in an effort to expand global awareness of eating disorders as genetically-linked, treatable illnesses that can affect anyone. NIED also plays an important ongoing role annually during the first week of February in Eating Disorders Awareness Week, drawing attention to the causes, prevalence, and impact of eating disorders.

Many of the significant changes within the Canadian eating disorder landscape over the past 10 years wouldn’t have been possible if not for NIED’s Founder and President Wendy Preskow, Co-founder and Vice President Lynne Koss and it’s committed team of volunteers including Executive Director Michelle D’Amico and recently installed Chair Lorne Bernstein, who have tirelessly advocated to get eating disorders on all mental health agendas provincially and federally. They have helped raise awareness within Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada, all as a means of making its vision — of all Canadians impacted by an eating disorder receiving the care they need — a reality.

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