I need 5 minutes of your time, $10.00 of your hard-earned money and your help in organizing a “Social Media Flash Mob” of 35,000 people.
Why 5 minutes? Because it’s important that you understand the magnitude and seriousness of what is quickly becoming an eating disorder epidemic in this country, especially on the eve of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Researchers estimate that up to 24 million people in the United States alone currently are afflicted by one of the constellation of diagnosable eating disorders (e.g., anorexia nervous, bulimia, binge-eating disorder or EDNOS) and that more than 30 million will suffer from one in their lifetime (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011) – numbers that likely are grossly understated given the social stigma and resulting under-reporting that, regrettably, are still prominent features of these diseases. Moreover, contrary to the myths that have evolved over time, eating disorders are not a life-style choice, a diet gone bad or a by-product of vanity. They also don’t discriminate based on gender, ethnicity, social-economic status, race or age. They are life-threatening diseases, which, left untreated, can have serious, if not fatal consequences. In fact, collectively, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses and the rate associated with anorexia nervosa alone is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15 to 24 years old – a frightening statistic when combined with the fact that anorexia is now the third most common chronic illness among adolescents (http://tinyurl.com/3cnwz77).
Given the seriousness of these diseases, it is incredible that, by some estimates, only 1 in 10 women (and men) afflicted with eating disorders receive treatment and only 35% of those who do get it at a facility that specializes in treating eating disorders. There likely are a number of reasons why this is true. In some cases, the failure to receive treatment is directly related to the stigma and shame associated with having the disease and the sufferer’s corresponding reticence to make their private struggle public. For others, it is a function of geography (i.e., the unavailability of specialized care near the home of the sufferer). For most, however, the inability to obtain appropriate care is a matter of economics. The fact is that eating disorder treatment can be prohibitively expensive, especially when higher levels of care are required (e.g., residential and/or intensive out-patient programs). Sometimes that cost can exceed $1,000 a day – a figure that even those with considerable resources have difficulty managing over even a short, let alone an extended amount of time. The problem is further compounded by the fact that many insurance policies (okay, most!) do not provide coverage for eating disorders that is commensurate with the severity of the disease and/or what the medical and scientific literature recognize as being the appropriate levels and duration of treatment – a situation that we as a society would find intolerable if it existed in the way insurers treat equally life-threatening “physical” ailments.
With increasing frequency, legislative initiatives at the state and federal level are being introduced to attempt to redress this ethically and medically indefensible disparity in the manner in which insurers continue to treat (or, more accurately, mistreat) eating disorder claims. In recent years, some state and federal courts also have taken a more proactive role in ensuring that eating disorder claimants receive equitable treatment by their insurers. In the interim, however, those suffering from eating disorders and their loved ones often find themselves having to settle for inferior care or, worse yet, unable to afford any care at all once their limited insurance benefits have been exhausted. It is a helpless feeling that I know intimately and one that I frequently hear from sufferers and parents all over the country. Fortunately, a few non-profit organizations are attempting to meet the needs of these individuals (and their loved ones) by offering “scholarships” to help offset the cost of treatment. One of them is the Kirsten Haglund Foundation (http://kirstenhaglund.org). As its name suggests, the Foundation is the brainchild of Kirsten Haglund, whose own struggles with eating disorders not only were the cornerstone of her platform as Miss America 2008, but have since become a catalyst for her tireless work as an outspoken national advocate for eating disorder sufferers and eating disorder awareness (http://tinyurl.com/oovhuhh). However, the Foundation’s ability to help depends entirely on others’ willingness to give.
That’s where the $10.00 of your hard-earned money comes in! Why $10.00? Several reasons: First, it occurs to me that it’s a sum that all of us should be willing and able to give without a second thought. Second, I wanted to keep the donation small to ensure 100% participation in this campaign. Third, while $10.00 may seem like a rather nominal sum of money (and, standing alone, it is!), it quickly becomes a very significant one when multiplied by 35,000, which is the size of the “Social Media Flash Mob” I’m hoping to “assemble” in support of this effort, with your and your friends’ help! What can we expect in the way of a “return” on our investment? The satisfaction that derives from witnessing the power all of us have to make a difference in the lives of others with the smallest of efforts; the confidence that comes from knowing that virtually every penny of your donation will be used to fund a scholarship aimed at helping to offset the cost of medical care for a deserving recipient; and the gratitude that will eternally reside in the hearts of what likely will be as many as 100 “scholarship” recipients for giving them the opportunity to benefit from treatment they otherwise could not have afforded – and the hope for a healthier tomorrow that comes with it.
Given the alarming rate at which the prevalence of eating disorders in America are growing and frightening statistics suggesting that the seeds for these illnesses are now being sown in elementary school-aged children (e.g., studies showing that 42% of 1st through 3rd grade girls “want to be thinner” and 81% of 10 year-olds are afraid of being fat), we can no longer look the other way and pretend that unless or until these insidious diseases find their way to our or a loved one’s doorstep they’re “not our problem.” Our shared humanity requires more of us. Please join me in taking a moment to make a difference. An expression of your support of those in need only requires a few clicks on your keyboard http://tinyurl.com/mwhkhwa, a few seconds of your time and a very few dollars of your resources. Once you’ve done that, I would appreciate it if you would share this link and heartfelt request with ALL of your Social Media followers, together with a simple word (or two) of encouragement from you on behalf of Kirsten and her laudable charitable efforts, in order to “assemble” the 35,000 person “flash mob” that is essential to the success of this campaign.
I’m convinced that, together, we can meet my ambitious goal ($350,000) – one $10 donation at a time – and, in doing so, bring HOPE to 100’s of people currently suffering from eating disorders, who are in desperate need of it. Let’s do this!!!
With Deepest Gratitude,