By Judy Krasna, Israel
When my daughter was diagnosed with anorexia eight years ago, our pediatrician didn’t have any tools to help her and he had no idea where to refer us for treatment. Normally, we would have turned to our friends and neighbors for referrals, in the same way we did when I broke my shoulder and needed an orthopedic surgeon; however, in the tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community in Israel where we live, people don’t talk openly about eating disorders.
Treatment information was not readily available through my usual social network. We had no support and nowhere to turn for the answers that we were so desperately seeking. Finally, we discovered that there is a somewhat “underground” network of parents who can offer the wisdom of their experience, but finding that network is difficult. As a result of not having the treatment information that we needed, we made critical mistakes that affected the course of our daughter’s illness.
After our lives got back on track, I decided to reach out and help other parents who are as clueless and frantic as we once were. Though it was difficult, I brought my daughter’s eating disorder into the light (with her permission) by starting a blog http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/judy-krasna/. I put myself out there so others could find me, and now they do. I educate other parents about treatment options in Israel, and I offer advice and support to help them through the rough times. I became involved with the Academy for Eating Disorders (http://www.aedweb.org/), Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders http://www.feast-ed.org/ and local advocacy.
I am so excited to participate in World Eating Disorder Action Day! As co-chair of the AED’s Patient/Carer Committee and as the founder of the F.E.A.S.T Israel Task Force, I regularly work in the advocacy arena with people from all over the world; however, there is something so special about seeing an endeavor like this being built from the ground up.
What I love about this project is how it brings so many different people together. There are professional organizations, parent advocacy organizations, patient advocacy organizations, and many individuals, from all around the globe, representing interests across the full spectrum of eating disorders, working side by side to change the way the world views, understands, and treats eating disorders.
In Israel, we are fortunate that we do not have the nightmare insurance issues that other countries experience. Our socialized medicine system offers affordable treatment options. Some of these options are less adequate than others, and not all geographic areas have access to local treatment; but given that Israel is a small country, the travel is manageable for the most part, and most people can receive treatment.
One of the biggest deficits here in Israel is that evidence based treatments are not the standard in most places; in fact, Family Based Treatment (FBT) is barely accessible and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is hard to find. This leaves both parents and patients extremely frustrated. In addition, outdated views on family participation in treatment keep parents on the outside. This prevents parents from being supported so that they in turn can support their child. It keeps parents from being empowered so that they in turn can empower their child. It also prevents parents from gaining the necessary parenting skills needed to help their child cope with and beat an eating disorder.
Israel shares many of the global misconceptions about eating disorders. World Eating Disorders Action Day has the tremendous potential to EDucate people everywhere. We have an opportunity to remove shame and stigma by addressing eating disorders in an open and up front manner, and by explaining that eating disorders are brain-based biological illnesses with genetic factors, and that patients do not choose to have them and parents do not cause them.
We have an opportunity to debunk damaging myths and biases about who develops eating disorders, about what people with eating disorders look like, about eating disorders being all about vanity and body image, and about eating disorders being a “lifestyle choice”. We have an opportunity to send a strong message about how complex, dangerous, and serious eating disorders really are.
When we work together on a global project, we make the world a much smaller place. We can create a positive ripple effect that can cross continents and traverse oceans. One example of this is my hope that there will be global implementation of high level medical care standards. Israel is in the process of adopting Joint Commission standards as well as other gold standards of treatment for inpatient settings. As the world gets smaller thanks to collaborative efforts such as this one, the sharing of information leads to positive and lasting change.
Action is empowering, and I love the idea of everyone involved in World Eating Disorder Action Day empowering one another so that we can face this daunting mission with strength and unity.
Join Judy 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.