Geoff Craddock, chairman of the board of directors for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), says his team saw firsthand how the pandemic exacerbated issues for sufferers and increased the need for comprehensive, effective remote care. “Pre-pandemic, there was research to illustrate that eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose,” he says. “Our experience at NEDA—an increase in calls to our helpline by 40% year-on-year—highlights that the isolation caused by COVID made this situation even worse for many individuals. These callers tell the story: The need is urgent and increasing every day. With timely access to high-quality care, we can change outcomes in the lives of individuals and families. We can offer hope.”
“Access to care is one of the biggest problems we face in the eating-disorders field,” says Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., founding director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. “If you live far from a specialist center or trained therapists, you’re basically out of luck. Equip brings treatment to your front door, which became unexpectedly essential when the pandemic hit.”
It’s tough to think of a treatment barrier more difficult to overcome than a global pandemic. When the coronavirus outbreak effectively shut down all in-person care options last year, many eating-disorder patients were left without resources. As research has indicated, people with eating disorders have experienced an increase in symptoms since the start of the pandemic, and telehealth options in the form of phone calls and Zoom sessions haven’t proven to be all that effective.
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