Student Senate Policy and Development Director Isabella Southwick spent about three and a half years of high school in outpatient treatment for disordered eating.
Stress was common and her reaction to it was not eating. It was extensive therapy, clinical check-ins and family support that eventually helped her overcome it.
“I would say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the help I got,” Southwick said. “Getting mental health treatment was the thing that got me through and I am a big advocate for that.”
Southwick’s own experiences as well as Senate Sync — an online platform she created which connected her to a student who expressed concerns with the lack of eating disorder resources at the University Kansas — inspired her to create an eating disorder student resource guide.
The one-page guide, which Southwick designed herself, showcases seven resources for students who have or are currently coping with eating disorders, including Watkins Health Education Resource Office, registered dietician Jade Gibson and the ANAD Group, an eating disorder support group on campus. Contact information and website links are located underneath each resource.
Southwick said she included resources that accept most insurance plans to ensure accessibility in the guide. The guide contains a disclaimer stating that the content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.
“To be able to help in any way I can, to say, ‘Well you have these resources, these people will support you’ — I want to be able to do that,” Southwick said. “I feel like as a member of Student Senate, that’s what we need to be doing, providing that support and help to students in any way we can.”
At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. and every 62 minutes, at least one person dies as a direct result of one, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
Watkins Health Services health educator Aftan Jameson worked with Southwick to help her find the campus and community resources to include on the guide.
Awareness, Jameson said, is the best route to reduce the stigma around eating disorders.
“The guide is a one stop shop guide to provide students with what help is out there. I believe that most of the resources on it, very little students know exist,” Jameson said. “That is the reason why this guide is so crucial. I feel that once the guide is out there, students will consider seeking help for themselves or perhaps a friend of theirs that they are concerned with their eating habits.”
In addition to providing copies for each resource listed and other organizations on campus, Southwick said Student Senate will publish the guide on its social media pages and look into posting it around campus in some capacity.
“It’s for students who are kind of in that unknown period where they’re really just trying to get help,” Southwick said. “It’s also helpful, too, for students who have friends that they’re concerned about.”
After living through it herself, Southwick said she encourages students to take advantage of the resources on the guide, if they are in a place in which they feel they are ready.
“If you’re in a place where you’re ready to get treatment, do it…I think especially as a student with so many different responsibilities and so many stresses, it’ll just keep going on the back-burner and keep going on the back-burner and eating disorders will eventually kill someone,” Southwick said. “If they go too far, you can be in a really bad place and not come back. I would say if you’re in a place where you feel like you’re ready to get help — get help.”