By Rachel Bachner, Israel
Israel is renowned for its expertise in medical research and treatment, yet when it comes to eating disorders, the need is great and the resources few. The prevalence of body dissatisfaction, unhealthy dieting behaviors and eating disorders in this country is at least on a par with, and probably higher than rates in other Western societies. We are fortunate enough to have public health services that provide or subsidize valuable multidisciplinary treatment options, including outpatient clinics, long-term inpatient treatment and post-hospital rehabilitation. Yet we need more.
We need more awareness about eating disorders and their unbearable toll. We need more treatment services, for example in the vast southern area, barren of trees and of eating disorders centers. We need more funding for such services, for evidence-based prevention and treatment options, for professional training programs, for intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, residential programs, and research. We need more education, for families, teachers, coaches, and mental health professionals in the secular, religious and ultra-orthodox Jewish sectors, and in the Druze and Arab populations. We also need less – less waiting for treatment, less stigma, less suffering, and fewer tragic deaths.
The first World Eating Disorders Action Day on June 2, 2016, is a welcome window of opportunity to unite and begin to shout out the needs of people with eating disorders in Israel, to formulate new plans of action and seek creative solutions. A central vision of the World Action Day is to unite professionals, people whose lives are affected by eating disorders, and activists. As President Elect of the Israel Association for Eating Disorders, I wish to encourage a much needed dialogue and collaboration between Israeli professionals on the one hand, and people and families affected by eating disorders in the present or the past, on the other.
Together we can build a strong, united activist movement that can lobby Knesset (parliament) members and mental health policy makers, such as the Ministry of Health and the Health Funds, to make eating disorders a priority. We need to help them realize the need to channel more resources into the prevention, treatment and research of these potentially deadly disorders that can affect anybody, regardless of gender, class, age, size, race, or ethnic group.
Since Israel is a multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-religious, and multi-lingual society, culturally sensitive treatments for underserved populations need to be developed and disseminated. This will enable Christian and Muslim Arabs affected by eating disorders, Druze, LGBT people, Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews, and immigrants from myriad countries to receive effective treatment for eating disorders.
Together we need to emphasize the importance of moving beyond short-term penny saving to a policy of investment in evidence-based prevention and treatment programs at all levels of care that can, in the long term, save both money and lives.
Dr Rachel Bachner-Melman, a clinical psychologist, is President Elect of the Israel Association for Eating Disorders and Founder and Director of “Koli, the Jerusalem Center for Recovery from Eating Disorders” (www.koli.org.il, www.facebook.com/koli.jerusalem) that offers individual and group therapy, and an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). Koli, which means “my voice” in Hebrew, represents a step forward in bridging the gap and building a continuum between inpatient and outpatient treatment in Jerusalem, because too many people stumble, fall and get stuck in this abyss. With this in mind Rachel created the IOP at Koli.
Rachel is also a Senior Lecturer at the Ruppin Academic Center, where she teaches MA courses in Clinical Psychology, and a Teaching Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has published over sixty articles and book chapters, is an active member of the AED, and a member of F.E.A.S.T.’s Advisory Board.
Join Rachel in supporting World Eating Disorders Action Day. Be sure to follow along on Twitter @WorldEDDay and hashtag #WeDoAct, #WorldEDActionDay, @WorldEatingDisordersAction on Instagram and World Eating Disorders Action Day on Facebook.