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National campaign launches targeting college students with eating disorders

LatinaLista — Across the country, college classes are in full swing with many students living away from home for the first time. While the popular warning to many of these students is to beware of the “freshman 15” — gaining 15 pounds or more due to a new lifestyle and new stresses — there will be some students who won’t have to worry about gaining weight — any weight.

In all likelihood, these students may be experiencing eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), “eat disorder onset” can first appear in the 18-21-age group. It is a mental illness that is rising among college students, especially women. Ten to 20 percent of college-age women and four to ten percent of men in college are identified as having eating disorders.

An even sadder reality is that too few colleges offer year-round campus screenings, mental health resources, educational programs or awareness events to identify and help these students when they find themselves locked in a battle with food. People with eating disorders have the highest mortality rate.

To help these students, NEDA has launched a national initiative, Proud2Bme on Campus.

A sister campaign to its online youth outreach program, the new campaign geared to college students offers information, resources and a chat link for students to talk to trained counselors. The site isn’t just for students either. Also available on the site are toolkits for colleges to create their own awareness campus campaigns.

Knowing that the success rate in battling eating disorders depends on how relevant the information is to the students, the campaign is partnering with professors from New York University and California State University, Northridge who will be working with student advocates to create early intervention programs and awareness campaigns which will be shared on the site for other campuses to emulate.

Professor Bobbie Eisenstock, who teaches a media literacy-driven, service-learning class at California State University, Northridge, said, “Students talk about how difficult it is not to be affected, even in a small way, by the picture-perfect body ideals and body snarking that is pervasive in our culture. Proud2Bme on Campus is a unique opportunity for college students to help educate, engage and empower their peers with critical thinking strategies to counteract these messages and promote self-acceptance and healthy lifestyle choices.”

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