February 3rd, 2021

MPP Jill Andrew marks first Eating Disorders Awareness Week in Ontario history

TORONTO – NDP MPP Jill Andrew (Toronto—St. Paul's), NDP critic for Women's Issues, Culture & Heritage, marked the first ever Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) in Ontario’s history, with an inaugural roundtable on eating disorders with the associate minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibillo and more than 45 members of the public including service providers, health professionals, scholars, community organizations, essential caregivers of people with eating disorders and people with eating disorders.

Andrew’s bill to make February 1-7 each year Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) became law in December 2020. 

“We have seen a significant rise in eating disorders during COVID-19, and in many cases individuals and families have not been able to access the quality care they need due to extensive waitlists. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these barriers. People die while waiting. Eating disorders cannot afford to wait and they do not discriminate,” said Andrew, who personally accessed support in her youth from Sheena’s Place in Toronto.

Eating disorders (EDs) affect nearly 500,000 Ontarians, and have the highest mortality rates of any mental illness.  Women and girls are disproportionately affected, but the disorder impacts many people who are not traditionally considered susceptible, including boys, men, seniors, fat people, BIPOC community members, 2SLGBTQIA+, and disabled people.

Andrew continues to push the Ford government to support Ontarians living with EDs as well as the service providers, health professionals, and programs that help them so they can have better access to OHIP-covered quality treatment to prevent harm, to achieve better health outcomes, and to save lives.

“Gaps in care such as the lack of ample community-based options for treatment, publicly funded supports, administrative gaps such as registered psychotherapists being required to charge GST/HST, and the lack of OHIP billing codes for eating disorders must be remedied swiftly. I am committed to working alongside our eating disorders community and this government to get the job done,” Andrew said.

Quotes from MPP Andrew’s EDAW Roundtable:

“Recovery from disordered eating begins with being able to access the proper supports, and is a journey hard fought for the rest of one’s life. It is imperative that we support our most vulnerable on their journey to wellness, not just to lead them out of crisis but to ensure they attain whole body wellness for the rest of their lives.”

-Steff Ivory Conover, Performer and Bulimia survivor (Toronto-St.Paul’s)

“As a psychiatrist, I cannot emphasize more the devastation that eating disorders bring to our patients’ and their families lives daily and the burden in their life yet eating disorders are often invisible – invisible in recognition as a serious medical condition with such limited funding for treatment and access to multidisciplinary teams in Ontario, invisible assessments by various healthcare providers including physicians, invisible in our medical curriculum, invisible in OHIP billing codes as there is no billing code for this deadliest psychiatric condition, invisible when seeing BIPOC patients and immigrants, invisible in understanding that this eating disorders are a lifespan condition.

Eating disorders are a real and devastating group of conditions that require intense treatment, specific skills, teams of healthcare providers with inpatient and outpatient programming – something that unfortunately most of us treating people with eating disorders can dream of only at this stage as people with eating disorders are faced with “we have no program in your area” to “You are on a waitlist” of 14 months while their life and eating disorder is getting worse and they struggle and they deserve better.  People of Ontario deserve better. With COVID pandemic, many patients with eating disorders have struggled the most they ever had – faced with job and food insecurity at times, programs shut down – many have been left without access to their specialized programs or much extended waitlist while the symptoms they have battled prior to the pandemic have skyrocketed, leaving patients with no choice but to suffer or rely on the local ER departments for care.”

-Dr. Maryna Mammoliti, Psychiatrist, CAMH, Thompson Medical Centre, Ontario Medical Association Psychiatric Section Chair

“The distinct voices and views that were expressed underscore the need for diverse supports and more inclusive partnerships between sectors of care to give individuals and families increased choices and greater continuity of care through accessible tiered services.”

-Caroline Rosta, Registered Psychotherapist (Toronto-St.Paul’s)

“Those with lived experience of EDs have told us loudly and clearly, the province needs a comprehensive approach to care that places the participant at the centre.  We need to eliminate barriers to access, by delivering services right in their communities, ensuring service providers interact without judgement, and by publicly funding the programs.” 

-John Choi, Executive Director, Sheena’s Place (Toronto, ON)

“Compared to 2019, NEDIC’s helpline has seen an increase of 70% in individuals reaching out, and provided double the support time to clients, as the helpline fills a gap while treatment programs and community-based supports are limited in their ability to operate as usual. We are all stretched beyond capacity.”

-Suzanne Phillips, Program Manager, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC)

"Finally, the voices of those who have lived experience are being listened to. However, we demand more than listening. Ontarians are suffering, their lives are being ripped away by a cruel disease while waiting on long waitlists and we need the provincial government to do something about this now!"

Sterling, Renzoni, Mental Health Warrior (Trent University)

"Numbers of people reaching out to our organization have doubled since the pandemic began.  We provide evidence-based treatment which is fully virtual. We urgently need more community-based treatment options for people struggling with eating disorders, because people with eating disorders recover faster with early intervention."

-Dr. Karen Trollope-Kumar, a family physician and medical director of Body Brave (Hamilton)

"With the trend of increased privatization models in mental health, including in eating disorders, we need to continue to focus on having a strong publicly funded system. The majority of people I serve do not have the means to afford private programs.”

-Dr. Darcy Waisman, Staff Psychiatrist, Trillium Health Partners (Toronto)

This week will shine a light on the urgent need for action, while recognizing the incredible work that is being done across communities to support those impacted by Eating Disorders.”

-Wendy Preskow, Founder of National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED)