Natalie Sullivan and Beth Dowbiggin are two Island women who are speaking out about their eating disorders, to increase awareness about the challenges they face. Here's part one of Laura Chapin's series "When food become the enemy".
A P.E.I. woman who's struggled with an eating disorder says she didn't get the help she needed from the health-care system, and many health professionals agree up-to-date training is needed.
Natalie Sullivan saw six different Island health professionals to try to control her anorexia. She saw her family doctor, a psychologist, a dietician, a mental health counsellor and two psychiatrists. They all tried their best, said Sullivan, but none could offer a solution.
"I knew that I needed to eat more, but what I needed was for someone to tell me how I could do that without feeling like the world was ending," Sullivan told CBC News.
Sullivan believes P.E.I. health professionals need more training in this complex and dangerous mental illness. Anorexia has the highest mortality of any psychiatric illness, due to physical complications and suicide.
Dr. Rachel Kassner, the past president of the Medical Society agrees. As a family doctor, Kassner said she could use more information to help the large number of her own patients struggling with eating disorders.
"I think it's a wonderful idea," she said.
"We have so many things we have to cover in medical school we cannot cover everything."
The last professional training on P.E.I. was a one-day conference more than a decade ago. Summerside Community Mental Health therapist Sonia Myers agrees it's time for more.
"Treatment modalities have changed over the years," said Myers.
"It's really important to be able to treat people based on up-to-date information."
Nadine DeWolfe, president of the Psychological Association of P.E.I., plans to pitch a joint training session with social workers and counsellors for next September.
"This is not an easy problem to fix," said DeWolfe.
"You can't just tell someone to stop. It takes a lot of highly-developed skills."
Sullivan said there needs to be more awareness in the general public about eating disorders as well. She said people would compliment her when she was at a very low weight, something she said ignores the health risks she was welcoming.
Sullivan has created a web site where people can learn more about anorexia and other eating disorders.
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