The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is proud to fund Lighting the Way Forward: Eating Disorders Peer Support Project. The program will connect Nova Scotians who are struggling with an eating disorder with trained, fully recovered individuals who can provide emotional and practical support, share information and most importantly, provide hope.
Lighting the Way Forward is an initiative of Eating Disorders NS. Eating Disorders NS provides information and support for those experiencing an eating disorder, their families and communities. The organization currently provides regular 12 week peer support groups, and drop in peer support groups for families in Halifax, New Minas, and Sydney. Eating Disorders NS is a core program of the Self-help Connection, a charitable organization focusing on promoting and developing peer support across Nova Scotia.
Funding necessary for the peer support program has been provided by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s Community Grants program. Grants are made available several times a year to community organizations or individuals seeking funding to operate programs and services with a mental health mandate.
“At a time when funding for eating disorder supports has been substantially reduced, the Mental Health Foundation is happy to be able to provide financial assistance for this incredibly important cause,” says Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia President & CEO, Starr Dobson.
“Research has shown that peer support reduces stigma, symptoms, and hospital admission rates,” says Shaleen Jones, Eating Disorders NS Coordinator. “Peer support for people with eating disorders can serve as a stepping stone for those in need of treatment – reducing stigma, encouraging them to access support, and preparing them to fully participate in treatment. For those who have completed treatment, peer support can help them stay well, avoid relapse and further readmissions. It is a powerful addition to the continuum of care.”
Courtney Elliot knows firsthand how powerful peer support can be. She battled an eating disorder for many years and struggled to find help. She completely withdrew from her favourite activities, friends, and family. She lost all hope, believing the disorder would eventually claim her life. Fortunately, Courtney was able to access the care she needed. She is now fully recovered, and is currently completing the Lighting the Way Forward: Eating Disorders Peer Support Training program. She is entering medical school in the fall.
Courtney hopes to help others going through similar experiences: “It is important for individuals with eating disorders to know they are not alone and that they should not feel guilty or ashamed about their illness. It is also important for them to realize that recovery is possible. I never fully believed I would recover from my eating disorder until I met someone in full recovery. Eating disorders have such a strong grasp on an individual’s life and it feels like there is no way to break free.”
Jones says Eating Disorders NS has worked with clinicians at the IWK, recovered individuals, and experts from the field of peer support to design their 40 hour core training program. The program is aligned with the IWK’s eating disorders peer support framework, which is currently in development. “We are so grateful for the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. This grant will allow us to match these amazing, recovered, peer supporters with people in need of some support.”
About Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are the third most common chronic health condition among young people, and impact an estimated 18,000 people of all ages, genders and background in Nova Scotia. Eating disorders are complex, serious, and deadly mental illnesses, caused by an array of genetic and environmental factors.
Only a fraction of those with eating disorders receive treatment. There are many reasons for this, including internalized stigma and access to care. Lengthy waitlists, strict criteria for receiving help, and a lack of trained clinicians compounds this problem. In Nova Scotia, the number of people visiting emergency rooms because of an eating disorder has doubled every year for the past three years. One in three of these people are immediately hospitalized at a cost of 2.8 million a year.
Early intervention is critical. With treatment and support, full recovery is possible.
About Eating Disorders NS
Eating Disorders NS provides information and support for those experiencing an eating disorder, their families and communities. Eating Disorders NS is a program of the Self-help Connection, a charitable organization promoting and developing peer support across Nova Scotia.
About the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia
The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is a registered charity dedicated to improving the lives of Nova Scotians living with mental illness and their loved ones. We raise funds for vital programs and services that help make this possible, province-wide.
Eating Disorders NS
T: (902) 229-8436
Colleen Fraser, Communications Coordinator
Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia
T: (902) 464-3210