July 23, 2014 3:44 pm

Province backing new support groups for Albertans affected by eating disorders

Watch above: The province is creating a new support network to help those recovering from eating disorders and their loved ones.

EDMONTON – The province has committed more than $165,000 over three years to the Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta to establish new support groups.

“Today is a very special day,” said Health Minister Fred Horne.

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He said that, while Alberta has in-patient treatment for people with eating disorders, there is not enough support for patients and their loved ones once they leave the hospital.

“Most of the discussion is about in-patient treatment in the hospital,” said Horne. “There’s some limited support, that I’ve learned, for families in the hospital, but once patients leave, there is really nothing there.”

Horne thanked former Edmonton politician Sue Huff for bringing the issue to his attention about 18 months ago.

So, the government will provide about $165,000 and work with the Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta to create more community-based support groups.  New support groups will be established first in Edmonton and Calgary, and will then be expanded to include locations throughout the province.

“The network is a community-based program focused on providing resources, education, support and advocacy to help individuals and their families with long-term recovery and maintenance,” added Horne.

EDSNA describes itself on its website as “a grass roots organization that was born out of the experiences of an Edmonton-area mother and her daughter following the daughter’s development of anorexia nervosa.”

“When my daughter Caitlin… developed her eating disorder and became so very ill, I was terrified that I would lose her,” said Moyra McAllister, founder and president of EDSNA. “Either that her body would simply give out or that she would turn to suicide.”

“Eating disorders are serious mental disorders with associated physical complications that can be lethal.”

“EDSNA does not and will not provide treatment,” explained McAllister. “We are an organization that provides support and information so that individuals can consider their personal situations, they can access reliable information, consider the options available to them, and make informed decisions about their next steps.”

During her daughter’s illness, McAllister struggled to find information on treatment, healing, resources and support. After combing the internet, she found a psychologist and nutritionist for Caitlin.

“It was completely by chance that we found these people,” said Caitlin. “My mom had been on the internet, she’d called people, she talked to everyone she could think of about where to turn to help me and there was nothing.”

READ MORE: Calgary parents work to fill gaps in eating disorder care 

Caitlin later checked into a residential treatment facility in British Columbia, but when she returned home to Edmonton, felt she had nowhere to turn for support.

“It’s like stepping out of the bubble and there’s nothing there for me.”

She’s happy to hear that network for patients – as well as their friends and family – will be offered here in Alberta.

“Everyone around me has been affected by my eating disorder. I’m not the only one who needs support.”

The network will focus on providing support in a non-clinical setting to help individuals and their families return to their regular day-to-day lives and connect with others.

Services will include

  • professionally facilitated group programming;
  • education and information sharing;
  • connection with professionals;
  • assistance with long-term recovery and maintenance; and
  • support for caregivers, friends and families.

“For individuals who are in a stage of recovery, these support groups will help them stay healthy, find connection with others who understand their journey and reduce relapses,” said McAllister.

About one in five Albertans will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. In a given year, approximately 1.3 per cent of Albertans (2.2 per cent of females) are at risk of an eating disorder, which affects approximately 31,531 Albertans.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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