Eating disorders awareness week looks to destigmatize the mental illness

Click to play video: 'Eating disorders still a deadly mental illness in Saskatchewan'
Eating disorders still a deadly mental illness in Saskatchewan
WATCH ABOVE: Eating disorders still a deadly mental illness in Saskatchewan – Feb 1, 2017

Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according to the National Eating Disorders Information Centre (NEDIC). It’s estimated 10 per cent of those with the illness will die within 10 years of onset.

Many who suffer from bulimia, anorexia, purging disorder and/or binge eating suffer in silence. That’s why the government of Saskatchewan has named Feb. 1-7 as eating disorders awareness week, to open up the conversation around these mental illnesses.

READ MORE: People with binge-eating disorders don’t get enough help in Alberta: woman

The province joins six others and more than 50 municipalities across Canada that are participating.

“It’s time to band together, give a voice to the cause and plant a seed of hope,” Carla Chabot, the executive director at BridgePoint center for eating disorders, said.

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 “Eating disorders are something that there’s a huge stigma around. People don’t talk about it. Many suffer in silence.”

“There’s between 600,000 and 990,000 people suffering in Canada at any point in time. When you think about that, that’s the population of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Yukon and the Territories all together,” she added.

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The campaign wants to reinforce the message that eating disorders are not a choice, they can affect everyone and are serious biologically-influenced mental illnesses with potentially life-threatening consequences. The campaign’s hashtags are #NotAChoice and #EDAW2017.

Registered dietitian Alison Friesen works with patients in Saskatoon suffering from eating disorders.

“This isn’t a choice, this isn’t something that someone chooses to do. It is an illness, it is a disease and it’s not discriminatory.”

“It’s affecting youth, adults, boys and girls. It’s affecting everyone across the board,” Friesen added.

WATCH BELOW: Alison Friesen explains why it is important to break the stigma surrounding eating disorders.

Click to play video: 'Shining a light on eating disorders'
Shining a light on eating disorders

According to NEDIC, four per cent of boys in the ninth and tenth grades reported anabolic steroid use, showing that body issues affect both men and women.

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Miss Universe Canada Siera Bearchell, who is from Moose Jaw, has been advocating for body diversity. She’s been fighting online bullies, calling out body shamers.

“I knew I had to stand up for it and say something because we all know that these comments are said. I think we’re to afraid to say something, to call people out or call out how wrong it is,” Bearchell said from Moose Jaw on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Miss Universe Canada calls out body shamers: ‘This is not OK’

This week Bearchell placed in the top nine at the Miss Universe Competition in the Phillipines.

“For me there is no one definition of beauty. We are all unique and that’s our power.”

“That’s what makes us stand out, that’s what makes us special. Be unique and love who you are. Know that true beauty, validation, and self worth all come from within.”

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