What is Mt. SAC Doing About Students with Eating Disorders?
My current job is a Tutor in the Classroom (Supplemental Instruction) at Mt. San Antonio Writing Center. On August 28th, 2018, one of the English classes I TC for had a debate regarding if dignity comes from within or is determined by external forces? The teacher and I disagreed on who won the debate. She chose the side arguing that dignity comes from within, and I selected the one that said dignity is determined by external forces.
Later that day during my lunch break, I heard two women talking about weight loss. One woman said that she was frustrated, and the other woman claimed she could see it on her face and asked her what was wrong.
“I’ve only lost two pounds this week, and last time I tried to lose weight it was more per week.” I sympathized with this woman because I am currently also trying to lose weight, and that morning I did not like the number the scale spat back at me.
Her friend responded, “you mean the unhealthy way? Losing 2 pounds a week is not a bad thing, in fact, I think experts say it is a healthier way to lose weight.” They walked out of the hallway at this point; however, I reminded myself that her friend was right. There are unhealthy ways to lose weight that are incredibly bad for your body.
Even later in that day, when I went to the restroom, I walked into a stall and almost threw up because of what I saw in the toilet. I tried to go into the next stall, but the smell was so bad that I did not want to risk throwing up on the floor. Other’s waste is the only thing that makes me throw up when I am not nauseous. I ran out gagging but trying really hard not to throw up, and I went to the second-floor bathroom which had a line, but I thought it was worth it because I did not want to throw up in public. The very back stall finally became available, and I sat down.
There are many issues with the bathrooms at Mt. SAC especially those located in building 26 where the humanity departments and classes are. They are usually not clean even in the morning when I work, and some of the locks do not work making it not private and unsafe. Finally, people act like teenagers in the bathroom and vandalize the walls with silly unimportant writing. I find the scribbles to be silly and immature, but it is something to read while I do my business. However, this time I was surprised by what I saw on the wall:
“Here is my confession…I am bulimic. Everyone compliments me when I lose weight.” This was written in two different colors because the person obviously ran out of black ink, and she (I only say she because it was in the girl’s bathroom) wanted to emphasize her point. This was neither immature or childish, but obviously, someone who was trying to ask for help and did not know how. I remembered some people force themselves to throw up, and here I was trying to prevent myself from doing so because I physically hate it. However, some people receive their dignity through their weight and will do things to help keep it high even though it is actually really low.
I went back down to work and told one of my supervisors because she is also a fellow feminist, and I was also not sure if this fell under a code that we had to report. She did look surprised when I told her, but then she said this is a continuing problem in the bathrooms of girls throwing up in there. Our center is right across from a female restroom, so we deal with a lot of issues occurring in this space. My supervisor told me that one time they had to call public safety because one of our workers was worried about a girl throwing up in the bathroom while another just said, “oh girls always do that in there.” Like this is supposed to be some normal everyday situation. I went back upstairs to take a picture of the writing on the wall for these reasons:
- According to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders, it claims, “At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness” (“Eating Disorder Statistics”).
- Maybe this girl will find this blog and finally ask for help.
- Bulimia might be an everyday situation for those who suffer from it and their loved ones, but it should never be considered normal.
- Many females find their dignity from society thinking that skinny is beautiful. This girl obviously receives her dignity from outside sources.
This is not about fat or skinny shaming, but people need to realize that when it comes to weight, America is obsessed with it. People gain their dignity from outside sources from those complementing or mocking their weight.
So, my question is what is Mt. SAC doing about this issue? From what I have been told this is very common in the female bathroom; however, this does not mean the males at the school are not suffering from an eating disorder. Eating disorders affect all categories of people: “In a large national study of college students, 3.5% sexual minority women and 2.1% of sexual minority men reported having an eating disorder. 16% of transgender college students reported having an eating disorder” (“Eating Disorder Statistics”).
Upon doing some research about Mt. SAC’s resources for eating disorders, I found a couple of web pages that can help.
The first is a pdf for students to find resources for eating disorders and other issues like alcohol abuse: www.mtsac.edu/healthcenter/counseling/Community%20Referrals.SG.PV%208.2015.pdf.
I also found an “Educational Information” page that provides links for different mental and physical health issues: www.mtsac.edu/healthcenter/counseling/educational_info.html.
If you want to be someone who specializes in counseling those with eating disorders or other mental health issues, they have programs and classes for you: www.mtsac.edu/cte/cte_program.html?profession=Substance%20Abuse%20and%20Behavioral%20Disorder%20Counselors.
Finally, I found Mt. SAC’s counseling page that gives students a “non-judgmental, confidential short-term personal counseling, and counseling in emergency situations. Referrals to community agencies are available if needs cannot be met by short-term counseling. These services are available for students currently enrolled in, and attending credit classes” (“Counseling Service”). I know “short-term” is scary for some people, and others need to understand that mental disorders are not like a disease that can be cured, but something that someone lives with their entire life; however, they provide referrals to agencies that will help Mt. SAC students. However, the counseling page is the one page that does not provide resource links for those who have an eating disorder. The closest one is probably a link to hotlines for those in need of help. One number is the suicide prevention hotline 24-hr Suicide Hotline 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) that also provides a link for college students with mental health disorders or issues http://www.ulifeline.org/mtsac/get_help_now (“Know Someone in Trouble?”). The reason why this is important is that according to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders, “1 in 5 anorexia deaths is by suicide” (“Eating Disorder Statistics”).
I mention these resources because they are good to know; however, it brings up the question if Mt. SAC is doing enough by providing resources for those who have eating disorders and telling students about them? If you agree that they do, then why did this student have to write this on the wall as a cry for help?
Someone is thinking that this person is probably only doing this for attention. My answer is, so what? First, if it was for attention, I do not think she would have written that she was bulimic anonymously on a wall in a school bathroom probably before or after she forced herself to throw up. Second, if someone is harming their body or is not taking care of their mental health, they need attention to become healthier. We need to destigmatize mental health and stop making fun of those who seek therapy and not treat them as some twisted other who does not belong in our society.
Disability scholars Stephanie Phillips and Mark Leahy in “Anticipating the Unknown” make a call for action for changing the binary of physical and mental disabilities: “Calling for the inclusion of bodymind into FDS, [Feminist Disability Studies] Price indicates that the use of a single term to cover both mental and physical processes can create a new understanding of these processes as one, instead of treated as separate, distinct processes” (128). Therefore, they conclude that just because someone has a physical disability this does not mean it is not affecting their mind. If someone has a mental disability, this does not mean that their body is not affected. Let us turn back to eating disorders. According to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders, “Nearly half of bulimia patients have a comorbid mood disorder. More than half of bulimia patients have comorbid anxiety disorders” (“Eating Disorder Statistics”). Though it can be argued that a disorder is different from a disability, I think Phillips and Leahy’s argument still stands in this situation. Those who have an eating disorder are hurting their bodies the most.
So, what can you do? If you are a college student suffering from an eating disorder, you should look up your school’s resources. If you feel like there is not enough for those who suffer from an eating disorder, do a call to action to ask for more help from the school, and even if you do not, do this as well. If dignity does truly come from outside sources, then everyone deserves the right to live even if you think you are simply giving someone a compliment.
Recourses for eating disorders:
National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders
NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association)
Help Line: (800) 931-2237
Eating Disorder Hope
Eating Disorder Recovery Center
1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
You are Not alone. Here are two Youtubers that suffered from eating disorders
(works cited do not format correctly on this blog page)
“Counseling Service.” Mt. SAC, www.mtsac.edu/healthcenter/counseling/index.html.
“Eating Disorder Statistic.” National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders,
“Know Someone in Trouble?” Mt. SAC,
Phillips, Stephanie, and Mark Leachy. “Anticipating the Unknown: Postpedagogy and
Accessibility.” Peitho, vol. 20, no.1, 2017, pp. 122-143, peitho.cwshrc.org/issue/20-1/.