Recently, three Ontario high school students, in an opinion piece, shared the story of a peer who starved to death.
Then, a few weeks later, two girls, who knew this had occurred and also died, disappeared and are still missing.
Since the first two teenage girls disappeared, three more cases have been reported in schools around Ontario. This comes on the heels of a revelation that an additional 54 homeless people died in Ontario as of April 2015, and a poster campaign from an organization that draws attention to various kinds of eating disorders.
The campaign is to inform people who are homeless that eating disorders are one of the leading causes of death among homeless young people. Unlike general presentations of eating disorders, homeless people often experience problems related to their basic access to health care. Thus, this campaign aims to raise awareness about eating disorders and educate students about the conditions that can affect a person’s weight and appearance.
While this campaign is important, it is important to note that it works only if people who are involved with the homeless know that they have this issue to face, and that organizations can help them access the necessary services.
As of 2013, “No One Is Alone” stood at the top of the Canada Health Research Institute’s Eating Disorders Barometer survey of youth eating disorders in Canada, and was first identified as a risk factor for eating disorders.
The campaign’s informational poster tells the story of a person who lost two family members who were on a hunger strike to end homelessness and homelessness themselves. It is meant to draw attention to the fact that among some individuals who go through a period of homelessness, which is often a regular event in life, whether the result of loss or substance abuse, it is difficult to talk openly about such a critical issue.
While evidence that individuals who struggle with trauma will often develop eating disorders is clear, understanding that some individuals in this position also have emotional disorders is still new.
But recently, studies have shown that an increased prevalence of eating disorders in certain social groups, as reported in 2013 by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, has been linked to the presence of interpersonal, emotional, and social distress.
Furthermore, an article from 2007 in Healthday found that Ontario children and youth experienced greater rates of self-harm during the early part of the pandemic. This reinforces the idea that, due to relationships, beliefs, and increased levels of stigmatization, more teenage boys and girls are struggling with eating disorders.
While it is expected that on a given day in Ontario, which contains much of Canada’s population, there will be between 1,000 and 1,400 new cases of diagnosed eating disorders, these will only be received in acute settings, by emergency services or behavioral health services. This means that what might appear to be a “rough” night, will instead be a learning experience with a stigma attached, which can last far longer than being admitted to the hospital.