NAMI takes a stand for those with eating disorders

Aubrey Lathrop

Augustana’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) organized a carpool program to take students to Amy’s Gift, an eating disorder support group in Davenport after several students expressed a desire to attend.

Senior Courtney Baker, the president of NAMI, arranged rides and reached out to Amy’s Gift. She also volunteers to drive students to the group when needed.

“We all kind of pitch in and coordinate each week who can be there driving. We always make sure that someone can be driving there and driving back,” Baker said. At the moment, there is a small enough group that only one consistent driver and car are being used.

The campus’s quality of service and approach to difficult topics, such as eating disorders, played into the creation of this project.

Farrah Roberts is the director of student well-being and resiliency and is the adviser of NAMI.  The transportation project was created because of a lack of awareness about the topic on campus.

“All of our counselors have a general understanding of eating disorders but are not specialists in that area, which is why they’ve created a relationship with Amy’s Gift and other area specialists,” Roberts said via email.

While students suffering with an eating disorder are referred to off-campus resources, transportation was an issue.

“Students who wanted to attend the off-campus support group were frequently looking for rides, and the medical shuttle isn’t available that late,” Roberts said via email.

A lack of preparation to help people suffering with eating disorders is a problem that stretches beyond campus.

Stephanie Burrough is the project coordinator at Amy’s Gift and is very familiar with eating disorder treatment.

“There is a significant lack in experts available to provide training and supervision for treatment of eating disorders, as well as a lack of standardized guidelines for treatment,” Burrough said via email.

Aside from a lack of transportation and treatment preparation on campus, there are many other factors that make dealing with an eating disorder more difficult.

“It’s really difficult in college in general to navigate with an eating disorder.

“Whether that be anything from anorexia to bulimia to just disordered eating in general with an unhealthy relationship with food, there’s always food around you and nowhere, really, to get away from it,” Baker said.

In the future, NAMI is making plans to create a support group that is more easily accessible to students.

“[Amy’s Gift is] working with us to get one of their listed providers who has experience facilitating a support group to come and do a support group on campus,” Baker said.

“We’re just kind of in the early planning stages but our main long term goal is to have a reliable, sustainable, group that is on campus that functions on its own,” Baker said.

According to Baker, it can be very difficult for someone living with an eating disorder to reach out for help, and someone might not be far enough along in their recovery process to feel comfortable receiving help in a group setting.

“I hope it helps students who are experiencing eating disorders gain the access they need to the help they deserve – and to know that they are not alone,” Burrough said via email.

Augustana NAMI holds meetings every Monday at 6 p.m. in room 304 of Olin.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out to campus counselors, NAMI or call the national eating disorder hotline at (800)-931-2237.