The NEDA Parent, Family and Friends Network
By Suzanne Oliver
Visit the NEDA website, attend the organization’s annual conference or participate in a fundraising walk sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), and you will immediately perceive that the focus of this organization is to embrace and support the experiences of both eating disorder sufferers AND their loved ones. NEDA knows that loved ones play a critical role in recovery, and that they need information, a compassionate ear and informed encouragement to help them overcome the sometimes isolating and overwhelming experience of supporting a loved one with an eating disorder.
The Steering Committee of the Parent, Family and Friends Network (PFN) has been comprised of parents and siblings of eating disorders sufferers and has been critical in identifying and creating the resources and programs that support families and loved ones. These include publications like the online Parent Toolkit, the peer-to-peer support of the NEDA Navigators program, the NEDA Conference buddy system and a library of videos (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/webinars) featuring experts discussing topics of relevance to parents and loved ones, such as the levels of care in eating disorders treatment, the role of nutrition therapy in eating disorders treatment and tips on obtaining insurance authorization for eating disorder treatment. NEDA estimates that PFN sponsored videos and publications have reached over 20,000 people. In addition, 288 people have been trained as NEDA Navigators.
The Navigators program is the most hands-on effort of the PFN. Through the NEDA Helpline (800-931-2237), those caring for a loved one struggling with an eating disorder can be connected with a trained Navigator for peer-to-peer online support geared towards offering short-term, goal-oriented assistance. Navigators can help identify treatment options, support groups, websites, books, and next steps on the road to recovery. They offer the wisdom of experience and encouragement, sharing personal stories and listening to the concerns of those who request a Navigator relationship.
Another important effort of the PFN is curating personal stories and relevant resources for families. The Making Connections magazine was created to reach parents, families and friends of eating disorders sufferers. Downloads of back issues are available on the NEDA website and include articles such as “The Dilemmas of Men Who Have a Loved One with Eating Disorders”, “ED Lingo 101 for Siblings: Learning to Listen to My Sister As Just My Sister, Not As Her Eating Disorder,” and “The Impact of an Eating Disorder on Siblings.”
Currently the PFN Steering Committee is exploring the best way to bring these kinds of stories and information to the community digitally. These new efforts will complement an already robust collection of existing resources. Through the NEDA website, friends and family members can currently access the Online Eating Disorder Screening Tool, tips on talking to a friend who may be struggling with eating and body image issues (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/family-and-friends) and search treatment providers (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/find-treatment). Additionally, parents, friends and family are invited to visit NEDA’s online Google Hangout and to view its video library on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/user/NEDANETWORK). I personally wish I had found the NEDA resources much sooner than I did. Once I discovered them, I bookmarked the NEDA website and have returned often for videos, articles and webinars that have all been enormously valuable to me.
About the author:
Suzanne Oliver is a member of the NEDA PFN Steering Committee and contributor to the NEDA blog. In addition she is a co-author of The Faith Club and former editor at SmartMoney and Forbes magazines.