Jack.org Network Rep, Julia Caddy on Eating Disorders It's time we talk, listen and understand. Play video An Eating Disorder is a Mental Illness Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rates of all mental illnesses. Check out this blog by our very own Jack.org Network Rep, Julia Caddy: It’s not about the food. When it comes to eating disorders, the focus tends to be on what we can see or measure: someone’s behaviour, and someone’s body. What if I were to tell you that a) it’s not about the food, and b) eating disorders can be present–and dangerous–at any body size? It’s not enough to simply start talking about eating disorders; we need to start understanding. Ultimately, eating disorders are as unique and diverse as the individuals facing them. What IS common across all eating disorders–and what we all too often ignore–is that they serve a function for the individual. It’s not about food, and it’s not about dieting. It’s about underlying issues for which food becomes a sort of coping mechanism. It’s about feeling helpless, feeling voiceless, or feeling insufficient. Lacking control, lacking hope, or lacking purpose. Being hurt, being empty, or being lost. Or all of the above. Ultimately, it’s about a hole that exists inside that the eating disorder promises to fill. What I know now is that the eating disorder doesn’t simply fill this hole: it makes it bigger. Bigger and bigger. And then being told that you must let go of the eating disorder is essentially being told that you must function with a gaping emptiness that harbours pain. And that’s where relapse comes in: empty the hole of the eating disorder, and it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself resorting back to the only thing you know will fill that hole. So when people ask why it’s so important we talk about–and understand–eating disorders, it comes down to this: we can’t continue thinking that “fixing” the eating is fixing the disorder. We need to recognize that this is a mental illness, and that there is a person–not just a body–that needs to heal. My feet only found solid ground when I was finally able to find the purpose, passion, and compassion in myself again. In other words, I found something else to fill the hole. Eating disorders have an alarmingly high mortality rate, and a shockingly high prevalence. And I’m not okay with that. I know too many faces behind the statistics. Not just faces, though: I know too many individuals with lives ahead of them and loved ones around them, who are stuck in a cycle of re-feed and relapse because they are taught to survive but never to live. It’s time we talk, listen, and understand. And understand that we likely don’t fully understand. Only then can we address the issue as a whole, and actually address that hole. ↓ If you’re seeking help and treatment options, the NEDIC helpline and instant chat is staffed Monday to Thursday 9am to 9pm and Friday 9 am to 5 pm EST. Call toll-free at 1-866-633-4220, or 416-340-4156 in Toronto.