News / Calgary

Calgary charity plans to build new eating disorder treatment facility

Eating Disorders Awareness Week is happening across Canada until Feb. 7

Students at Mount Royal University who have struggled with eating disorders smashed scales on Tuesday to demonstrate their weight does not define them.


Students at Mount Royal University who have struggled with eating disorders smashed scales on Tuesday to demonstrate their weight does not define them.

Fundraising has begun on a much-needed treatment facility for Albertans battling an eating disorder (ED).

The first week of February is Eating Disorders Awareness Week across Canada, and local organizers are hoping to draw attention to the mental illness that affects more than 33,000 Albertans.

Currently, there are two provincially funded treatment programs for EDs in Alberta, one in Edmonton and one in Calgary.

That’s not enough, according to the Calgary Silver Linings Foundation (CSLF), a charity created by parents who had a difficult time finding support for their children struggling with an ED.

The CSLF is working to establish a dedicated eating disorder (ED) treatment facility in Alberta within two-to-three years.

“When it affected my family, we really didn’t know anything and we made all sorts of missteps,” said Brad Pierce, CSLF co-founder. His son has battled an ED for almost three years.

“We wanted to create a better situation for other families facing this circumstance,” he said. 

The facility will have up to 12 beds for individuals with an ED who don’t need hospitalization, but require longer-term care to overcome their disorder.

Mark Lagimodiere, manager of the Calgary Eating Disorder Program (EDP) and Paediatric Consultation Liaison Clinic for AHS in the Calgary Zone, said resources to care for patients with ED’s are limited.

“In Calgary, our greatest need right now is to see additional in-patient services, and a separate standalone in-patient unit,” Lagimodiere said.

There are six in-patient beds in Calgary for people with an ED who are admitted to hospital for around-the-clock care.

These in-patients participate in group therapy and are provided with three meals and two snacks a day.

Lagimodiere said the clinic’s services are continually in demand.

“We obviously have limited resources,” he said.

Sue Huff, executive director for the Eating Disorders Support Network of Alberta (EDSNA), said additional treatment facilities would alleviate the pressure on existing ones.

“In Calgary, they’re very over-subscribed, and in Edmonton they’re absolutely packed to the rafters,” Huff said. 

“It would be smart to have broader care to avoid people being re-admitted to hospital, which ends up costing (the province) more money,” she said. 

Pierce said he understands funding is limited, but more emphasis on mental health care is necessary across the country.

“Eating disorders are a serious mental illness. Once (someone gets) into a pattern, it starts to take over in the brain and become an unconscious process at that point,” Pierce said, describing something he has experienced with his own child. 

“We need to expand care, not only for eating disorders, but all mental illnesses.”

The EDSNA has planned activities across the province for EDAW – from ceremonial scale-smashing to a panel discussion about how the disorders affect men.

“Eating disorders can affect anybody, and males are a population with increasing risk,” said the EDSN Calgary coordinator, Dr. Angela Grace.

Canadians should be shifting our focus away from weight, and instead, focus on being healthy and celebrating diverse body types, according to Grace.

“We can’t look at someone and tell what their health status is or what their personality is about,” she said.

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