Eating disorder clinic provides help to CSUN students

Melanie Saxe

Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating has been on campus for 12 years, and exists to educate students on eating disorders. They provide information through peer education, classroom presentations, fairs, brochures and flyers.

Ellen Mayer, a counselor at University Counseling Services and founder of JADE, said they reached more than 2,800 students last fall through presentations done by the peer educators. She said this number grows yearly.

With 15 peer educators, they have reached their training capacity. Mayer says they are now focusing on fine-tuning their presentations.

One of their methods to reach more students within the classrooms is to change their focus, Mayer said. Instead of talking about the 10 percent of the population’s eating disorders, they talk about how media images affect the population. This reaches 100 percent of the audience, because everyone is affected by media images.

“We want to continue to make our presentations as powerful as possible,” Mayer said.

She recognized a need for this program when she realized how many students had concerns about eating.

“Almost everyone knows someone who has, or has had an eating disorder,” she said.

Mayer said she also realized that a peer-to-peer education would be more effective.

“Students take the information more seriously, especially when body image is discussed,” Mayer said.

Nilou Hakkakzadeh, a graduate student, has been a peer educator since August 2005. She said students show an interest in their presentations. She said many come up to them afterwards to ask questions.

“We inform students on the resources on and off campus,” Hakkakzadeh said.

Statistics from questionnaires passed out after presentations at CSUN show that 60 percent of students know or have known someone with an eating disorder.

Twenty-eight percent of students either have or have had an eating disorder. Of those 28 percent, 10 percent are male.

Mayer said these statistics have not changed in the last 12 years. But in general, more females come for help.

Sabrina Kim, an undergraduate student, is also a peer educator and has done about six presentations so far.

“The best resource we have to offer is the University Counseling Services,” Kim said. This is because they offer eight free sessions.

The type of students who usually come in for counseling on eating disorders are those who have disordered eating or concerns about eating.

“College-age students are the most vulnerable,” Mayer said. Behind this vulnerability is competition for dates, fear of the freshman 15, anxiety about grades, and many other reasons.

The target classes for these presentations are freshman-level and lower-division classes. There are many reasons why someone may have concerns about eating, Mayer said, but the key is to address these concerns before they become a problem.

Mayer said they do not know the statistics of how many students actually go to the Counseling Services because of JADE, but many students show interest after the presentations.

“It takes a long time for those inner images to change, but we can start,” she said.

Another outreach will be in early April. JADE will be teaming up with the Health Center for the U Matter-dor Fair. It is a fair dedicated to students’ health and well-being.

The fair will have music, food, giveaways and many engaging activities so students can be involved.

Their goal is to fine-tune the presentations, rather than reach more people, Mayer said.