This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
I go to a tiny private high school in downtown Chicago. I’m a senior now, and I know not just everyone in my grade, but a large majority of all the students at my high school. I’d say my school is very forward-thinking when it comes to mental health, students’ well-being, support, and a healthy work-social balance. We regularly have conversations about sexual consent, about managing stress, about the dangers of drug and alcohol, and most recently, a mental health alliance was started by a fellow student to raise awareness for depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
While I feel that I’ve reaped the benefits from this atypical “extra” education, I didn’t know how much my school was actually missing until I started this GOA in Abnormal Psychology. I decided to focus on eating disorders because I realized, in my tiny high school community, I could count on both hands how many girls I knew with eating disorders. And my school would remain silent on the issue. I want to shed some light on the issue, because it’s not just relevant in my community.
WHAT SPARKED MY INTEREST?
One of the first steps of this Catalyst Conference was interviewing a professional in the field we wanted to focus on. I interviewed an extremely helpful eating disorder therapist in Chicago named Tracy Durkan. We talked about many aspects of eating disorders; how most people associate them solely with privileged white women, how living with an eating disorder is a daily ongoing struggle, and how they’re just not talked about enough. However, the thing that stuck with me the most from our conversation was when I asked Ms. Durkan what she wished she could do to help people with eating disorders. She responded that she would want to eliminate the word “fat” from people’s vocabulary. And that really got me thinking. I’ve never heard the word fat used in a positive way. It carries a negative connotation in every context its used.
The word is so harmful to people who struggle with eating disorders. Although there have been movements to stop the negativity and stigma surrounding the word “fat,” the fact remains that it’s triggering to people of all ages who suffer from eating disorders. They’re afraid to BE fat, and people using the word to describe unappealing things all around them is triggering, upsetting, and psychologically harmful.
I want to eliminate the word fat from your vocabulary. It seems like such a small change, but you have no idea about the impact it can have on someone who struggles with an eating disorder. The word carries fear, disgust, and dissatisfaction.When I was younger, I remember signing a pledge to eliminate the word “retard” from my vocabulary, which I did without question because I realized how much negativity it brought to people whom it referred to.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Along with other students also participating in the Catalyst Conference, I plan to give a presentation to students at my school about how they should eliminate the word fat from their vocabulary as well. Students at my school will be able to sign the pledge in person, but for everyone viewing this project, I invite you to sign the pledge below, and encourage others in your community to sign it too.
Together, we can make a positive change in the lives of the millions of people who live with eating disorders every day.
Bahadur, Nina. “LOOK: A Young Woman’s Incredible Comic About Body Image.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/colleen-clark-body-image-comic_n_3140536.html.
Deans, Emily. “A History of Eating Disorders.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Dec. 2011, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201112/history-eating-disorders.
“Fat Shaming In Films.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Nov. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIJthyUlX3w.
“Our Work.” National Eating Disorders Association, February 18th 2018
Schultz, Rachael. “What We REALLY Mean When We Call People Fat.” Shape Magazine, Shape Magazine, 29 June 2017, www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/what-we-really-mean-when-we-call-people-fat.