It takes a lot for someone with an eating disorder to seek help: It takes a lot of courage and can be one of the most terrifying, yet important turning points in an individual’s recovery journey. Making the decision to consider letting go of the eating disorder as a coping mechanism and seeking treatment can be very daunting.
So when someone does reach out, and is told that there is a long waitlist to access a treatment program, it can understandably feel like a huge setback. Oftentimes, the point at which someone is spurred to seek treatment is a very critical time, and not having support during this time can be extremely challenging. Unfortunately, due to a lack of adequate resources in our healthcare system long waitlists are a sad reality for many.
It’s extremely important that individuals who are seeking treatment do not go completely unsupported during this time. Oftentimes there is a forward momentum generated by making the decision to seek treatment and it’s important to nurture and sustain this momentum. While waiting, other forms of support can be incorporated into an individual’s circle of care during this time.
There are many pro-recovery social media groups and online forums out there that can be a great source of support for individuals dealing with eating disorders and for their supporters. Online forums can also be a low-pressure way for individuals who are still in the contemplative stage of recovery (that is, thinking about recovery but not yet having made a concrete decision to work towards recovery) to explore the idea of seeking support. Some helpful forums include the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) forum, the Looking Glass forum, the We Bite Back forum, and the Recover Your Life forum. The Anorexia, Bulimia, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) Recovery Support Group on Facebook is a great online space as well and has vigilant admins. Please note that there are a lot of pro-eating disorder (usually called Pro-Ana or Pro-Mia) sites and forums out there that can be extremely unhelpful so please be careful when seeking online support.
Telephone Warm Lines/Information Lines
A Warm Line is a phone line for people who are seeking support but are not currently in a crisis situation. NEDIC has a great information support line listed at the top of their webpage. The Krasman Centre also has a 24 hour Warm Line available for people seeking mental health support (which can be reached at 1-888-777-0979).
Peer Support Groups
Peer support groups are facilitated by a Peer Support Worker (or Peer Recovery Facilitator, hereafter referred to as a Peer). Peers are individuals who have lived experiences with mental health issues and use their experiences to help people progress in their recovery journey. Peer support groups are a place to share personal histories, successes, and struggles, and to learn strategies for combatting mental health issues. They can be unstructured conversational groups, or they can be more structured and include support materials, such as Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) groups.For more about peer support groups at Riverwalk visit our support page. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has various locations all over Ontario and Canada. Visit their website, click the “Find your Local CMHA” button to visit the website of your local CMHA and see what programs they are currently offering. Mood Disorders Association of Ontario (MDAO) also has a comprehensive list of their location-specific peer support groups. The Krasman Centre has locations in Alliston and Richmond Hill and regularly offers peer support groups.
Other Mental Health Support Groups
These are groups that are not facilitated by peers, but rather are facilitated by mental health professionals. These groups still offer the opportunity to connect with other people with lived experience and share recovery strategies. Support groups are offered at Riverwalk and Sheena’s Place in Toronto also offers many different types of support groups focused on a variety of recovery topics. CMHA also offers many different support groups focused on different mental health issues and recovery topics. Again, visit their website, click the “Find your Local CMHA” button, and visit the website of your local CMHA to see what programs are currently being offered.
Expressive and Therapeutic Art
Expressive and Therapeutic Art programs can be a great option to be connected and receive support from people with lived experience while also participating in a constructive, creative activity. Engaging in art groups can be a low-pressure way for people to discover constructive ways to rebalance mental health concerns. Many art forms, such as Zentangle or knitting, have documented positive effects of reducing anxiety and increasing mindfulness and a sense of wellbeing. It can be wonderful to connect with others and engage in creative pursuits in a safe, non-judgmental, beautiful environment while receiving support from clinicians such as art therapists or occupational therapists (OTs) as well as others who are working through their mental health issues. Riverwalk offers many different types of Expressive and Therapeutic Art programs in York Region. Sheena’s place in Toronto offers Expressive and Therapeutic Art programs specifically for people with eating disorders.
Phone Support by Mental Health Professionals
Some mental health professionals offer phone support as well as in-person therapy sessions. Please note that private practice clinicians are not often covered by OHIP. NEDIC has a comprehensive resource list of health professionals and organizations that offer support for eating disorders. Get in contact with NEDIC to inquire about professionals/organizations that offer phone support by calling the number at the top of their webpage.
These are just some of the resources that are available. While the above resources do not replace intensive medical treatment that may be required, they can be a great option for bridging the gap that can occur while on a waitlist. Even if you’re not at the point where you are ready to or need to seek intensive medical treatment, adding some of the above resources to your circle of care can help nurture your recovery journey.
If you have some great recovery resources that you’d like to share, or if you’re interested in any of Riverwalk’s programs, please get in contact with us at email@example.com.