“There are many misconceptions about eating disorders. Unfortunately, this means the severity of these disorders is often minimized.

“Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Feb. 1-7, is an opportunity to address these myths and increase awareness of the very real impact of these conditions. This year’s theme, What Happened While We Waited, also emphasizes the urgency of obtaining treatment and the need for immediate care.

“We know eating disorders are serious mental health conditions and more than half of the individuals diagnosed meet the criteria for depression. We also know these disorders are under diagnosed and only 10 per cent receive treatment.

“Most alarming, anorexia nervosa, which is characterized by unhealthy weight loss, has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

“In Alberta, we are seeing the impact of stress, social isolation, and other consequences of the pandemic on our young people. I urge Albertans to watch for warning signs like weight loss and avoiding food.

“Please connect with the teens in your life, offer your support and ensure they know help is available. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical. It’s also important that we recognize that with appropriate intervention and care, a full recovery is possible.

“Please join me in reaching out and supporting those living with an eating disorder. Help is available to anyone struggling.

“The Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta offers support groups in Edmonton, Calgary and online: https://edsna.ca/support/ or if you are in distress, please call toll-free the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642 or the National Eating Disorder Information Center 1-866-633-4220.”