The newly-founded Eating Disorder Awareness Club (EDAC) is working to educate the campus community on the complexity of eating disorders and offer support to affected students.

Its founder, Hannah Yeddu, a junior majoring in biological sciences, cited personal experiences and those of people she knows among the reasons for founding the club. Other factors included reducing the prevalence of common stigmas around eating disorders and increasing awareness about the effects of eating disorders. The organization’s general interest meeting on Feb. 9 featured a painting activity over tea while the E-Board played relaxing music. They shared the club’s goals and brainstormed future fundraisers and meetings.

“Personally, I’ve faced difficulties sharing my own experiences with eating disorders, highlighting the necessity of creating a space where individuals can openly discuss their struggles without judgment,” Yeddu wrote in an email. “This club serves as a safe haven for anyone in need, aiming to provide a platform where individuals can freely express their challenges.”

The National Library of Medicine reported that an “estimated 11 percent to 17 percent of females and approximately 4 percent of males” in the United States on college campuses screen positive for symptoms of an eating disorder. Additionally, they found that as of 2020, only 20 percent of college students who positively screened for an eating disorder reported receiving treatment.

“The club is committed to fostering awareness through a variety of events and activities,” Yeddu wrote. “These initiatives cover a broad spectrum of topics, including but not limited to intuitive eating, body image and self-love. We strive to address critical aspects such as size and shape diversity, the intricacies of eating disorders and the detrimental impacts of pervasive diet culture. Moreover, our educational efforts encompass exploring the biological, genetic, psychological, cultural and environmental factors contributing to eating disorders and their comorbidities.”

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. 10,200 deaths each year, or one every 52 minutes, are the direct result of an eating disorder.

EDAC’s E-Board is determined to create a safe space for students to receive support from their peers. While students may be hesitant to share their experiences, the EDAC strives to create a welcoming environment by hosting events and providing a comprehensive education that fosters eating disorder awareness.

Yeddu said that eating disorders are “not merely extreme diets but legitimate mental illnesses that warrant understanding and empathy.” According to Yeddu, major life changes — like a lack of structure, an emphasis on socializing, an increased workload and newfound independence — can foster learning issues, poor self-esteem and anxiety, which may contribute to the formation or worsening of an eating disorder.

“The core mission of our [organization] is to proactively address the prevalence and impact of eating disorders within our college community,” Yeddu wrote. “Our primary objectives include the provision of resources, support and education to fellow students, cultivating a compassionate environment that champions body acceptance, mental health and overall well-being. [EDAC] seeks to create a dynamic and informed community that actively challenges stereotypes, promotes understanding and contributes to a supportive network for individuals navigating the complexities of eating disorders.”