Seeing the Palm Springs community come together to support and celebrate LGBTQ folks makes me smile. What a life saving and life giving gift Pride Celebrations have become to rally around and show support for the folks who’ve been marginalized for so long. What started as a riot has become celebrations of support.

Having the support of a community can make all the difference for basic survival as well as actually thriving. According to Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist who developed a hierarchy of needs to explain human motivation, belonging, love and acceptance are all needed to self actualize.

So many parents and other family caregivers of those with eating disorders have told me how isolated and lonely they feel in their role. There is still so much stigma around mental illnesses and massive lack of awareness about eating disorders that family caregivers don’t get the community support that they would if their loved one had a chronic physical illness.

Sadly, the majority of the time it falls upon the caregivers to ask for the support they need. Which is tricky when you don’t even know what you need and you might feel like you’re drowning and being erased. Caregivers have told me so many heartbreaking stories about this lack of community support. Here is a short list of some of the top situations I’ve heard:

  • No one has organized meals to be delivered to our family.
  • Not a single person sent a card or flowers.
  • I am being erased.
  • When I had a child with cancer, everyone I knew offered help…I need even more help now and there is none.
  • Having a child with cancer was so much easier because that child wanted to get rid of their illness…no one understands that.
  • My family doesn’t even ask how our child is doing.
  • We feel so alone, people avoid us.
  • Our community stopped talking to us and including us in things…like our child’s illness is contagious or something.

So what is a family to do? And what can community members do?

I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts. Our eating disorders field and families have done; walks, lobbying, awareness events, educational events, films, webinars, youtube videos, ribbons, advocacy days etc. For the most part though, it’s people who are already aware of the stigma and marginalization that these families are experiencing who attend.

Here are a few of my ideas for how to support the family caregivers, please feel free to share yours on my social media, comment here or email me. 

  • When you hear diet culture talk, gently let folks know that you know of someone with a deadly eating disorder and that diet culture makes it worse.
  • Discourage weight loss challenges in schools and work places, let them know that these events can trigger deadly eating disorders.
  • If you know a family struggling, ask if you can support them by running an errand, doing some laundry, bringing a meal over or driving other kids to events.
  • Tell your health care provider you choose to not be weighed at your visits and tell them why.
  • Share eating disorder awareness info wherever and whenever you can as long as your loved one is okay with you doing that.
  • Find support groups for family members so they can connect with others who get it.

What ideas can you add to this list? Please share. And remember, people really do want to help – they just don’t know how. It’s okay to ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone.