Where to Turn for Help
Harvard Groups Ready to Listen
There are many places Harvard students with eating disorders can seek help.
According to UHS's Dr. Margaret S. McKenna '70, at UHS psychiatrists do assessments and referrals, short term counseling, and hold groups for bulimics. Anorexics typically do not do as well in groups.
Eating Problems Outreach, a three-year-old peer counseling group under the auspices of UHS, is located as a drop-in center in the basement of Memorial Hall from Sunday through Wednesday and is accessible every night through a hot-line from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Room 13, in the Stoughton basement, also handles calls and visits from people with eating problems.
McKenna emphasizes that there are two distinct advantages to peer counseling: anonymity and instant access. "The anonymity of peer counseling may encourage people to take that first step on the path to get help," says McKenna.
The instant access is very important, especially for bulimics, according to McKenna. "The key thing is to avert a binge," she says. "Often that can be done by contact with another human being. Most people binge at night, when a psychiatrist or counselor isn't available. The cycle might be interrupted by just making a call," says McKenna.
"We are here primarily for listening, but we do do referrals to UHS if a person asks for a suggestion," says Lily S. Lau '87, a counselor at EPO. "We try to help people understand what they're saying. We're not judgemental," she says.
"There's a need to be anonymous [for callers]," says Lau.
"It's a big risk to talk with a friend, since anything you say might change their opinion of you. There's a certain objectivity about being anonymous," says Julie M. Mihelich '86, co-director of EPO.
According to Mihelich, just this semester EPO has experienced an increase in number of calls. "There's growing recognition that eating disorders are a legitimate problem. Also, the stigma attached to calling a peer counseling group is diminishing," says Mihelich.