A Vancouver non-profit successfully raised hundreds of thousands of dollars Friday night to help treat eating disorders in Metro Vancouver.
The Looking Glass Foundation held its 13th annual fundraiser gala at the Rocky Mountaineer Station, raising $450,000 in funds to support their residential treatment facility and other programs, including a new peer support program designed as a new model for mental health treatment.
Looking Glass, founded by a group of Vancouver moms whose daughters battled serious eating disorders, operates one of the few treatment centres in Canada for youth struggling with an eating disorder. The residence, which opened at the old Ronald McDonald House in Shaughnessy in 2015 after being relocated from Galiano Island, offers a 12-week recovery program for men and women aged 17 to 24.
The 14 beds at the Looking Glass Residence are among only 47 publicly-funded beds available in B.C. Only 28 of those are for youth.
But while the residence is supported by funds from the provincial government, the Looking Glass Foundation relies on donor support for the number of other programs it runs to help those suffering with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other eating disorders.
The peer support program, called Hand in Hand, is a new way to treat eating disorders outside of an inpatient facility, Looking Glass executive director Stacey Huget says.
Fully launched this year, the program utilizes community volunteers who have recovered from a mental illness and pairs them with someone currently needing help. The foundation is looking to expand the initiative from 45 matches to 100 this year.
“The Hand in Hand program represents an entirely new model of support for mental health, whereby those in the community who have recovered from a mental illness — and eating disorders often come with depression, anxiety, addiction and even self-harm issues, so they cover the full gamut — become the providers of meaningful, affordable, accessible support,” Huget said.
This type of treatment is important, Huget says, because it is free, flexible and personalized. And according to Looking Glass, there’s nothing like it running anywhere else.
“The Hand in Hand model embeds recovery in the community, and because it’s volunteer-based, offers the potential for more people in more places to find the help they need than could ever be possible in the traditional mental health care model.”
Along with Hand in Hand, Looking Glass also runs an online peer support group and a week-long summer camp at Loon Lake, B.C — programs which will be further supported by the funds raised at Friday night’s gala.
Some of that money will also go towards a scholarship program that helps young people receiving treatment for an eating disorder attain post-secondary education. Applications for this year’s scholarships opened last week.
“We are just so humbled by the generosity and support of our amazing donors,” Huget said. “I hope they appreciate just how grateful we are — not just for the difference they are helping us make for people suffering from eating disorders, but for how moved we are by their belief in us.”
“There is just so much stigma around eating disorders. People die from eating disorders, but many more live lives of shame, anxiety and pain — and they also do so alone, without hope. Having a community that gets how serious and pervasive this is, and is willing to pull together in the fight against this disease — well, it’s everything.”