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Dec. 6: This week’s Talking Point – eating disorders, the deadliest mental illness. Plus letters to the editor

'Our daughter Léa would have turned 22 this week. Would have … she died of anorexia at the age of 20.' Readers, print and digital, share their stories in a call for action, not platitudes, on eating disorders, the deadliest mental illness

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Thank you for raising the issue of how anorexia and bulimia are treated in Canada. We are clearly failing our adolescents in their struggle against this terrible illness. And specialized resources all but vanish after age 18 (A Scourge In Need Of A Strategy – Dec. 2).

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Moreover, there is a striking lack of knowledge about eating disorders among the general population of doctors and hospital staff. Our daughter Léa would have turned 22 this week. Would have … she died of anorexia at the age of 20. She is one of the many casualties of a system that lacks funds for research, training and care. How sad that all the parliamentary committee could come up with was platitudes.

Meanwhile, the profound suffering of those affected by eating disorders will continue. Many more parents, siblings and friends will be devastated by the senseless and avoidable loss of a life.

Christa Japel, Outremont, Que.

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We desperately need a national program designed to help children with eating disorders, and their families. Children as young as 5 are developing eating disorders. New cases are occurring in children aged 5 to 12 at a rate two to four times higher than Type II diabetes. However, there are no developmentally appropriate programs where they can receive treatment. Typically, parents are told it's "impossible" their child has an eating disorder when they attempt to seek help.

Parents are often forced to choose between no treatment and developmentally inappropriate treatment in adolescent programs. It is no surprise children with eating disorders often have a worse outcome than teens with eating disorders.

A national strategy needs to address infrastructure that spans prevention, treatment, residential care, outpatient treatment and family supports.

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We need to implement guidelines to establish acceptable levels of service, including wait times and training requirements for service providers.

A national strategy must also include research, education and awareness, and an eating-disorders registry that captures the number of people needing services, how long they are waiting for treatment and patient outcomes.

People with mental illness continue to be marginalized and face stigma and discrimination, but deserve the same attention and support as those with other health care needs.

Leora Pinhas, physician lead, Eating Disorders Unit, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences

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André Picard paints a grim picture regarding the paucity of medical supports and therapies available for those with eating disorders, in particular young Canadian women. For girls between ages 10 to 19, the hospitalization rate has increased by 42 per cent in the past two years.

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These are staggering increases, hence Mr. Picard's concerns about this issue being undermined by the "platitudes" offered as solutions to this crisis. Most lamentably, these bromides come from the now eviscerated parliamentary standing committee on the status of women.

Mr. Picard rightly concludes that what is necessary, and without delay, is actions and programs that offer the required supports to these young Canadian women before it is too late.

Of equal concern is what, in our societal construct, is precipitating so many girls and young women to starve themselves to death?

Steve Sanderson, Quispamsis, N.B.

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Let's try to remember that eating disorders are not the sole domain of children and youth; increasingly, older adults are being recognized as a significant subset of the population of people struggling with eating disorders, and in Canada, older adults are offered treatment designed around and for younger people, with limited success. We need to start looking south of the border where there are treatment programs for older adults and start importing their best practices up here.

Sally Chaster, Victoria

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As a parent who has lived through the very experience André Picard wrote about, I couldn't agree more with his call for action. We were fortunate to be accepted fairly readily to an integrated hospital outpatient program centred on family-based therapy, but we were just that: lucky. Had my daughter been 19, we would not have been accepted into the program and therein lies another unconscionable issue – that "adults" with eating disorders face even more dire prospects for care.

It shouldn't be so hard or so financially punishing to get the care needed for this disease.

S.R. Kennedy, Toronto

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Sheena's Place was founded in 1996 by a mother and her close friends who watched young Sheena struggle and eventually starve herself to death. Why are there tragically still thousands of Sheenas after almost 20 years, when preventative strategies are known?

Eating disorders are not solely about food, but involve a bio-psycho-social response to stress. The role of clinicians is to find out how to best support children, young adults, women, men and their families, through life transitions/experiences that may have been traumatic or may be perceived as threatening.

Individuals with eating disorders also face stigma. Eating disorders are not self-induced. Eating disorders are not a choice. Eating disorders affect individuals and their families regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or gender. In fact, recent research suggests that up to one in four individuals struggling with an eating disorder is male.

In the Greater Toronto Area, home to more than 15 per cent of Canada's population, Sheena's Place is the only private charitable organization that supports those impacted by this devastating shortfall in our social service and health-care systems.

Deborah Berlin-Romalis, executive director, Sheena's Place, Toronto

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ON REFLECTION Letters to the editor

Just who's confrontational?

Re PM Suggests Wynne Trying To Sow Conflict (Dec. 5): Stephen Harper's remark that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne should not focus "on confrontation" constitutes another of his drive-by smearings.

This kind of unwarranted personal attack was more than offensive when he aimed something similar at Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin earlier this year.

The psychological concept of "projection" is the only way I can understand the Prime Minister's continuing behaviour.

Jim Sinclair, North Bay

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Narratives of race

Re The Two Conflicting Narratives Of Ferguson (Dec. 4): Margaret Wente's column calls for a "nuanced approach," but it's really very simple.

As every lawyer knows, "not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done." The grand jury's decision means simply, without nuance or shades of grey, that justice will not be seen to be done.

The black community is therefore left with no resource except futile riots. The system is preserved. End of story.

Peter McLaughlin, Toronto

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Oil's slippery slope

Re Wanted: Honest Talk About Moving Oil (editorial, Dec. 4): Opposition to Energy East isn't about creating an "oil free zone." It's about warning that the pipeline would facilitate reckless tar sands expansion and create spill risks for the entire St. Lawrence region.

The oil would be for export, not Quebec refineries already supplied by other sources.

Valero has said it won't be taking Energy East oil at its Quebec refinery. Honesty is admitting this pipeline would create huge new risks, but few rewards.

Adam Scott, Environmental Defence

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About that bank job

Re Poloz Signals 'Broadening' Recovery (Dec. 4): Is this the same Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada, who in January was worrying about deflation?

I said then in a letter to the editor that he was wrong, and asked if I could have his job if I was right.

I say he is wrong again.

My prediction: Canada will continue to bump along at about 2-per-cent growth for the next year. How about double or nothing? If I am right twice in a row, do I get his job?

Garth M. Evans, Vancouver

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