We would like to see additions to the resources offered by Yale University regarding eating disorders. Since Yale is a high-stress environment and because 86 percent of eating disorders develop during college, it is of the utmost importance to consider these additions for both the prevention and treatment of eating disorders on campus.
After examining the resources available at the U.S. News and World Report’s top 16 universities in the country, we have concluded that the re-incorporation of an eating disorder center, an increase in awareness groups, improvement of the Yale University Health Services Web site and resources for peers would vastly improve the eating disorder support system at Yale.
It is disturbing that the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders closed earlier this year. Although this center alone did not raise sufficient awareness, it provided a space to consult with specialized physicians. We understand there are limited resources available at UHS; however, we see a need for more attention. Ideally, an eating disorder center at Yale would provide access to inpatient care, partial hospitalization and outpatient care to all students.
With one of the leading medical schools in the country, why not invest in an eating disorder center? Eight of the 16 schools we investigated have an eating disorder center through their medical school, including Harvard and Princeton. Not only would providing this care be beneficial to the patients, it would also provide an avenue for research at Yale’s School of Medicine in the field of eating disorders.
A powerful liaison between an eating disorder center and the student population could be established through the development of student-run organizations knowledgeable in eating disorder outreach. These groups would raise awareness of eating disorders on campus and would help the community overcome the fear and stigmatization related to eating disorders. Although the physical symptoms may be apparent, it would be helpful for peers to be able to detect and respond to emotional and behavioral symptoms associated with eating disorders. These groups would also promote healthy body image and eating habits, supply information, and be available for peer advising.
Another important resource that could be incorporated through student-run organizations is a hotline (phone, walk-in and e-mail) dedicated to eating concerns. Yale’s Walden hotline claims to provide help on any issue, but when we called to discuss concern for a friend, the student counselor only provided us with telephone numbers for other resources — not all of which were on campus — and did not provide any concrete suggestions for what to do.
Another more informal way to increase awareness at Yale would be to update the YUHS Web site to include more information on eating disorders, nutrition and links to student-run organizations. Our generation has become accustomed to seeking answers from the Internet, so by adding this information Yale would give its students a reputable source for potentially life-saving information.
A Web site aimed at college students and dedicated to nutrition information would benefit not only those suffering with eating disorders but also new college students who might not be used to planning meals for themselves. The site should detail what constitutes “healthy eating” and provide general dietary guidelines.
It should also have information for students who suspect a friend may be suffering with issues related to food and/or weight. Trained peer advisors could also provide help to students who do not know much about eating disorders or how to help a friend who may have one. Such advisors could mediate sessions in which a friend expresses concern and the affected peer responds. If the student were responsive to the idea of seeking help, the peer advisor would be right there, ready to help.
These suggested improvements are necessary, and we urge YUHS to consider adding more resources to the Yale community. Ninety percent of people with eating disorders do not seek treatment, so as one of the best universities in the world, let Yale strive to both lower this percentage and prevent more from becoming affected.
Kimberley So is a junior in Branford College, and Monica Cowan and Robin Wagner are seniors in Branford College.