Welcome to the Feminism and Mental Health Issue!

Dear Readers,

Feminism is an essential aspect to many realms of women’s mental health–validating the taxing experiences of all women (and all others who are oppressed by patriarchy), pushing back against the the assumptions that women are ruled by their emotions, encouraging the pursuit of fulfilling lives, and in countless other ways.

Our January issue features discussions of diverse intersections of mental health and feminism, including interviews with health-care providers in various fields, portraits of what mental health looked like in other historical eras, and art inspired by a feminist search for inner peace.

Our first submission is a discussion of mental health care with a feminist-identified social worker in California, who uses her feminism to assist families through challenging times in their lives.

We then move on to discuss mental-health maintenance when common resources aren’t available. Maria Vallejo-Nguyen provides a portrait of historic patriot Manuela Saenz and how she maintained her sanity during years of exile and being considered outside of what it meant to be a woman. Vallejo’s portrait shows the strategies her subject used to survive such a trying time.

Editor Tiffany Williams submitted a personal journal entry. She also evokes raw emotion in a poem that reflects on her past in a effort to move towards self-acceptance and growth.

Carly Fox addresses what spirituality can bring to both feminism and mental health through her discussion of Pema Chodron’s work on working through self-hatred and jealousy both personally and inter-personally.

Taylor Russell  discusses the treatment of eating disorders.

Guest contributor Jessica Williams writes a piece about why medicine is important and how it has the power to heal.

Finally, Carly Fox provides a list of national mental-health resources as well as a list of book recommendations.

Please enjoy the stories, art, and resources included in this issue. We hope they inspire you to find the ways in which feminism contributes to your own emotional well-being and that of everyone in your lives.

As always, we welcome your thoughts, comments, and submissions.

Sincerely,

Tiffany, Emilie, and Carly

What’s Missing In Eating Disorder Discourses

By Margaret Taylor

The mental health field is routinely silent towards cultural factors that contribute to eating disorders in the United States.  The field that sees the dire effects and consequences that eating disorders have on women and men every year has yet to weigh in on the continued flawed and dangerous body and beauty standards in American media.  While eating disorders effect both men and women, the effects are seen largely in women as approximately 5 to 15 % of those suffering are male (The National Institute of Mental Health: “Eating Disorders: Facts About Eating Disorders and the Search for Solutions.” Pub No. 01-4901).  The ripples of cultural standards of beauty and body image are seen in eating disorders among women, particularly those between the ages of 16-25.

Here is what’s at stake as the mental health field continues to remain silent.

Eating disorders continue to have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.)  It is surveyed that 25% of college aged women reported binging and purging as a weight loss or management strategy. (The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” 2003).

Also, 20% of people with anorexia will die prematurely from complications related to their eating disorder (The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” published September 2002, revised October 2003).  These are startling statistics, and unfortunately they are not new.  Alternative and powerful tactics must be taken to provide a new approach within treatment and also outside of treatment in the discourse on media and depictions of body.

Within treatment centers, the focus is highly individualized to the client focusing on personal stories and trauma. This is helpful and necessary to recovery but the field itself has failed to address larger conversations that infiltrate one’s mind from the moment they open up their mother’s beauty magazine or turn on the television. depositphotos_3404005_l-m-52463 (1)It’s the stories of mothers finding their nine year old daughter’s list of a diet in purple crayon scribble, the group of 6 grade girls exchanging laxatives in the bathroom during lunch, or the obsession with the “thigh gap.”  These incidents are not uncommon and have yet to be addressed.  They are the results of the ever-present yet unrealistic bar for beauty in this country.  These are the conversations that need to be addressed from the field of people who deal with them on the front line. I want to hear from the professionals who see the sick individual walk through their doors everyday on the edge of heart failure gripped with an illness that’s fueled by misconceptions and misrepresentations of the body and health in American media.  The missing voice in eating disorder treatment is the professional who sees the violent consequences of a world who won’t champion healthy body image or even take part in the conversation.