Success Story: National Eating Disorder Information Centre

We’re pleased to present yet another amazing success story from our 2020 Rainbow Grants! This time, check out our interview with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), and the work they’re doing for the LGBTQIA2S+ community!

Could you tell us a little about the initiative your 2020 Rainbow Grant has supported?

With support from the CommunityOne Foundation, NEDIC is co-creating a digital, web-enabled resource with members of the 2SLGBTQ community who identify as having lived experience with an eating disorder. This resource will provide vital information for individuals who are affected, their loved ones, and the professionals who provide support for those affected. It aims to shine a light on the pervasive myths that stigmatize members of the community are affected with an eating disorder, educate readers on the journey of what this experience can look like, guide conversations with loved ones and professionals, and provide strategies for self-reflection. 

Was there a particular thing that sparked this idea/initiative?

At least one million Canadians struggle with a diagnosable eating disorder, but the stigma around the condition combined with the access barriers that exist in receiving quality mental health support means that it is likely that many more struggle in silence. NEDIC operates Canada’s English-speaking national toll-free helpline and an online chat service for anyone thinking that they’re struggling with an eating disorder. We’ve heard from queer, trans, and gender diverse folks directly through our helpline services about some of the unique intersections they’ve faced, and these experiences bear out in some of the recent peer-reviewed research literature on eating disorders as well. During last year’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we hosted a panel conversation on the intersection of eating disorders and the 2SLGBTQ community, and many of the folks who participated in that event have gone on to work on the resource directly. 

What was your goal in making this initiative happen?

We wanted to develop a resource for the community, by the community. When community members reach out to our helpline, we’ll have a resource to share that might help normalize their experience, help them feel less alone, and provide hope that their life can be different. We also believe that the resource will allow people who work in the mental health field to have a better understanding of how to appropriately support clients from the community who might be struggling. 

Many organizations have been faced with a set of new challenges, due to COVID-19. How is your team adapting?

We’ve seen demand on our helpline skyrocket, with a 43% increase year-over-year from 2019 and a 104% increase in the number of young people ages 11-19 using our services. COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on underserved communities have also highlighted a need for a resource like this, as now and in the future, we want to be able to better support people who might reach out to us for support. 

Many of the community members working on this resource have also seen their time and capacity diminish, so our team has had to be flexible with our timelines and the work that needed to be done. 

What has the response/impact been like so far?

It’s been an honour to work with the committee on the resource over the last couple of months. We’ve evolved in our understanding of what we wanted this resource to be, and grown together in the way in which we’ve brought our varying knowledge, skill set, and experience to the work. While it wasn’t in the initial plan, we’re hoping to add a webinar about the resource in spring 2021 to help contextualize why we created what we did; it’s another way to bring our “voice” directly to our clients. 

How do you see this project evolving into 2021?

Other than the webinar, we plan on promoting the resource widely — both through local distribution in the Greater Toronto Area, and digital distribution across the country. We aim on outreaching to community-nominated organizations to ensure that they know about its existence and can use it to better support their clients. 

Is there any other projects coming up that you’d like to share with our supporters?

February 1st to 7th every year is Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and this year, we’re amplifying the message “What happened while we waited?” as we hope to embrace the nuances of this time. People with eating disorders have been waiting for care and support for a long time, and many of whom belong to underserved communities that have not had the best experiences with our already-existing care system. 

In our Outreach & Education department, we’ve been utilizing the increased acceptance of virtual tools to reach out to wider swaths of our country and engage them in prevention-focused education sessions, share strategies for conversation, and increase critical thinking about this issue. 

Stay tuned for more Community One Foundation Success Story interviews coming soon!