03-01-2011 09:37 AM CET - Health & Medicine
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National Eating Disorders Association Launches Innovative Mentoring Program, ‘NEDA Navigators’

Press release from: National Eating Disorders Association
PR Agency: Greenleaf & Associates
SEATTLE — As the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) wraps up its 24th annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Feb. 20-26) – one of its most successful ever, with thousands of participants across the country – the organization announces that it has launched a unique, new mentoring program, NEDA Navigators, to help guide those struggling or concerned about a loved one to connect with local treatment options and resources and to provide compassionate and experienced personal support.

After a year-and-a-half of planning and eight months in active field development, NEDA – the leading U.S. non-profit organization supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders – has already enlisted 72 Navigators in 28 states. As NEDA continues to aggressively build and expand the program, the organization is also working to distribute information about this no-cost mentoring service to mental health, medical and educational professionals across the country.

Commented Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of NEDA, “When someone is impacted by an eating disorder, those around them often have difficulty finding and making personal and non-professional connections with others for support and information. It is a lonely place to be. The goal of the program is to empower, educate and lend support from people who have already traveled the road to recovery and negotiated its tricky turns. Navigators have learned how to share their insights with maximum benefit through professional education. I look at them as trained friends and they are wonderful.”

Said Phoebe Megna, a NEDA board member, a steering committee member of NEDA’s Parent Family Network, an architect of the program and a NEDA Navigator herself in Connecticut, “I was personally overwhelmed, confused and frightened when an eating disorder hijacked our daughter 15 years ago. Now, when a parent reaches out to me, I can share those feelings with perspective and knowledge and offer grounded support. I also grew up with an anorexic mother … so I had to learn what is ‘normal’ and healthy and how to help my daughter in recovery. I want to share that experience. Connecting with others in the NEDA Navigators program is an incredibly valuable and rewarding use of my time.”

Added Vic Avon, a NEDA Navigator in New Jersey – who developed anorexia in his teens and almost died before successfully seeking treatment in 2008 – “I know all too well how alone a person feels in their disorder. The NEDA Navigators program is a blessing because it allows people that have been through the process in one way or another to help guide, listen to and be a companion to those people in need … and show them that everything is going to be alright. I wish this program had existed when I was ill and I feel fortunate to be able
to be there for others.”

The Navigators program is advised by Dr. Doug Bunnell, Ph.D., a NEDA founder, past board president and clinical director of the Renfrew Center of Connecticut; and Ilene Fishman, L.C.S.W., specializing in the treatment of eating disorders in private practice in New York City and a founder of NEDA.

Operating on the same basis of confidentiality, shared-experience wisdom and support strategy as Alcoholic Anonymous’ successful, 76-year-old sponsor program, there are strict guidelines governing being a NEDA Navigator, such as not being an eating disorder professional and being well into his/her recovery or that of a loved one.

Navigators must spend at lease one hour per week to check emails, respond to and do outreach for the program in one's own community with doctors and educational professionals.

NEDA Navigators receive a guidebook and must pass initial webinar training, which teaches them how to responsibly respond to families’ and individual’s questions and guide them through the difficult maze of how to approach a loved one, share their own experience, become aware of their personal boundaries, help them connect to resources and perhaps, most importantly, to listen! NEDA Navigators are trained friends who have the opportunity to continue training monthly through a webinar where the Navigators can ask questions and learn more from the program’s clinical advisors. The Navigators program has already seen great success in directing those affected to local support and treatment.

For more information, visit NationalEatingDisorders.org

Contacts:
Greenleaf & Associates – 323-660-5800
Vicki Greenleaf — vicki@greenleafandassociates.com
Karen Brundage — karen@greenleafandassociates.com

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), headquartered in Seattle, Wash., is the leading U.S. non-profit organization supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. NEDA serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. Each year, NEDA helps millions of people across the country find information and appropriate treatment resources through its toll-free live helpline (800-931-2237), its many outreach programs and website. NEDA advocates for advancements in the field and envisions a world without eating disorders.

National Eating Disorders Association
603 Stewart St., Suite 803
Seattle, WA 98101
Karen Brundage

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