Huntington, NY - February 25, 2014 - Today, the Huntington community met to recognize “Eating Disorders Awareness Week” in Suffolk County. Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer, Suffolk Commissioner of Health, James Tomarken, and Kerry Dolan from the National Eating Disorder Association hosted the event. They joined other health officials, local service providers, and the staff of Life Center in Huntington to educate the public about these serious illnesses. This awareness event follows the Suffolk County Legislature’s unanimous adoption of Spencer’s resolution dedicated to bringing attention to eating disorders which are serious and potentially fatal illnesses.
“As a community, we should use all tools at our disposal to assist those among us who are suffering,” said Suffolk County Legislator William R. Spencer, M.D. “Educating people about the signs and symptoms associated with eating disorders is a simple way to help those in need of comfort and care. With the proper help, individuals can eventually recover and lead healthy, normal lives.”
“Eating disorders often begin with body dissatisfaction and dieting in the early teen years,” stated Suffolk County Commissioner of Health, James L. Tomarken, MD, MPH, MBA, MSW. “The good news is that with early intervention, recovery is possible, and the long-term effects of these illnesses can be avoided. “
In the United States alone, over 30 million individuals of various ages, sex, backgrounds, and race have suffered from a clinically significant eating disorder in their lifetime. Ranging from anorexia to bulimia to binge eating illnesses, these disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. However, only 1 in 10 who has an eating disorder receives treatment. These are complex mental health problems that often become life-threatening and can severely impact a person’s emotional and physical stability. Proper treatment and timely care can often lead to a full-recovery.
"It is imperative that we continue to focus on issues relating to behavioral health. Anytime we can shed light on a topic such as eating disorders it's a win/win for the community. Having the support of local government can begin to address the stigma surrounding mental health. It can help move the focus towards access to treatment for individuals in need of services," stated Steven Pinto, LMHC Director of Operations at the Life Center.
It is necessary to be vigilant and watch for symptoms that include skipping meals, fasting, smoking, vomiting, and/or taking laxatives. Additional symptoms can include severe weight loss, inadequate food intake, intense fear of weight gain, persistent behavior to prevent weight gain, eating when not hungry, and retreating to the bathroom for long periods after meals.
Because it is common for eating disorders to happen along with one or more other psychiatric illnesses, treatment can become more complicated and make recovery difficult. However, help can come from friends and loved ones. Simply talking in a loving and non-confrontational way can aid a person with an eating disorder. Encouraging them to seek professional help would be the best course of action, as only a doctor can truly assess one’s symptoms and provide an accurate diagnosis.
“We are taking a huge step forward in Suffolk County,” said Legislator Spencer. “By taking an active approach toward positively influencing the lives of those suffering from eating disorders, we will hopefully save lives. Each disorder is a serious condition that requires extensive medical treatment. We continue to work to prevent these disorders from afflicting more people each year and seek to significantly reduce the stigma that surrounds them.”