Wichita, We’ve Got A Problem.

Wichita Kansas Mental Health

“… she’s got depression, oh and yeah, she’s a puker.” The charge nurse stated matter-of-factly.

“…Are we going to do anything about that?” I inquired with curiosity.

“No, I mean, she’s just acting out… typical teen stuff.”

(A conversation I had almost a year ago)

But I knew it wasn’t. Despite what some of the media and less informed people may say, it’s not OKAY for a teenage girl to make herself purge every day. Along with many other myths people believe about the Eating Disorder (ED) population the hardest piece of it all is that…

We could save lives in Wichita if we increased our ED awareness & prevention methods. 

But that’s not even the most heartbreaking part about it… What’s worse is that after asking around for treatment resources and supervision resources for myself (as I work to offer these resources as an MFT grad student at Friends) I came up empty handed except for one very busy practitioner who has been declining clients.

Hospital-wise, the Via Christi behavioral hospital also doesn’t treat ED’s (hence, the dialogue above), and the closest hospitals that specialize in ED’s are located in Colorado and Texas.

So WHY does all of this matter to local Wichitans like you?

Well, you likely know somebody who is struggling on one end of the eating disorder spectrum or the other (or may not know but have suspicions)– we all know at least one friend who spends WAY too much time talking about food, their body, and wasting precious energy on either eating too much food, too little, or spending hours on a treadmill to “purge” their last meal.

In fact, some harrowing stats show that 4 out of 10 individuals have either personally experienced an eating disorder, or know someone who has.

~10% of the American population struggles with an Eating Disorder or potentially diagnosable Eating Disorder in their lifetime, that’s  38,841 Wichitans!

Because of the nature of eating disorders, many who suffer HIDE it, deny it, and increasingly isolate themselves while trying to normalize unhealthy behaviors. It’s sad. It sucks. It’s easier to do with things like food (since we all have unhealthy eating habits from time to time). But the ease of hiding makes this disorder all the more insidious.

If by some miracle you haven’t been touched personally by someone struggling from an ED then maybe you’re more passionate about the wellbeing of Wichita’s youth.

Well, national stats show that 50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives to control their weight.

And if you’re thinking that’s just a phase, we just need to let it pass and kids and adults struggling will GROW out of it. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for most. And what’s worse is that Eating Disorders have the HIGHEST mortality of any mental illness (excluding Opiate overdose as of 2019), and although recovery is FULLY possible and achievable. Many struggle with the weight of their eating disorders (in many ways) for the rest of their lives.

So after many conversations over many months with different practitioners, I began to see that it is time that we care take action here. It’s time to increase awareness, to increase treatment options, and funding to build healthier kids, healthier women, a healthier ED free Wichita. 

Although there are so many wonderful mental health resources in Wichita, I know that we can do better. This is weighing on Wichita, whether in pounds or in tears, disappearing people, and unrealized potential. 

❤ Jenny Helms


If you are interested in finding more local resources, or learning more about Eating Disorders and ways to increase prevention, please reach out to me at [email protected] or 316-201-6047; https://www.somawichita.com

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