February 6, 2016 9:59 pm
Updated: February 6, 2016 10:18 pm

Rally held in Vancouver to support people with eating disorders

WATCH: It's estimated one million Canadians suffer from an eating disorder. To mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week, several Vancouver landmarks are being lit up purple. As Nadia Stewart reports, a rally was held in downtown Vancouver today to bring more awareness.

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As many as one million Canadians suffer from sort of eating disorder, but some working to support those struggling with the illness say the number of new cases continues to climb at a troubling rate.

On Saturday, a rally was hosted by the Looking Glass Foundation, a group focused on the support and treatment for people with eating disorders. The goal was to come try and come up with solutions on how to tackle the illness.

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“We can’t keep up. The disease is escalating at such a scale. It’s not just women–it’s men, boys, girls, it’s coming on earlier and earlier. It’s really a horrifying disease,” said Stacey Huget, the foundation’s executive director.

Susanne Carolson now works for the Looking Glass but, when she was younger, struggled with an eating disorder. She said more help is desperately needed.

“There’s so many people suffering in silence and the amount of resources available…pales in comparison to how many people are dealing with it,” she said.

Anorexia, bulimia or binge eating are affect hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Over the last several decades, there have been awareness campaigns, rallies and significant strides made in getting people to talk about and understand the condition. However, Huget said it’s still misunderstood.

WATCH: Dr. Kristin Von Ranson, a clinical psychologist at the University of Calgary, talks about the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and what you can do if a loved one needs help

“People think it’s about food and that maybe it’s just a choice. You want to be thin and so you don’t eat. So, sort of ‘shame on you for being sick,'” said Huget.

“That does a couple of things: it belies the actual illness, which is just as profound as depression, anxiety, any of the other mental health issues–it usually occurs in combinations with them, and it stigmatizes the sufferer. Who wants to come forward with a disease that people are frowning on and drawing conclusions about.”

Former NDP MP Laurin Liu tabled a motion, calling on the Federal government to develop a national eating disorder strategy. But that was last May, just months before the federal election, where she would later lose her seat.

Here in British Columbia, there are programs for children and adults, but help is limited.

In her desperation, a Prince George woman took to YouTube and crowdfunding to raise money for treatment. She was able to get help, but Hughet says social media and a relentless barrage of body conscious images means, despite their efforts, the illness is gaining ground. It’s what prompted The Looking Glass Foundation to launch a new campaign–called SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE.

She says it’s not a critical campaign, but a constructive one, aimed at drumming up support and some much needed political will.

“We’re looking for a range of some of the systemic and the granular changes that need to happen–some of them are softer and some of them are hard. We need to make hard decisions and move forward on this issue.”

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