Innovation Factory: Body Brave hopes to end stigma around eating disorders

Source: Spectator, Published Feb 13, 2018

If the overwhelming response from “Bell Let’s Talk Day” this past January is any indication, Canadians are ready to end mental health stigmas.

With more than 130 million interactions, Bell committed to donating more than $6 million in support of mental health initiatives. In Hamilton, local social entrepreneur Sonia Seguin aims to reduce the stigmas surrounding an issue close to her own heart; eating disorders.

Seguin struggled with a life-threatening eating disorder for eight years. She was eventually able to recover with the help of a Hamilton treatment program and a supportive therapist. However, it was a long journey made more difficult due to social stigmas, long waiting lists and a lack of community support.

This led Seguin, along with family physician Karen Trollope and a group of committed colleagues, to found Body Brave in August 2017. Other team members include social worker Clare Cruickshank and a dynamic board of directors.

Body Brave is a not-for-profit that offers innovative and accessible support for those struggling with disordered eating, and eating disorders. They offer group and individual support – everything from body positive yoga to drop-in knitting groups – in an inclusive setting.

For those seeking support, Body Brave’s services are available without a formal diagnosis. Their approach complements formal treatment programs and encourages people to reach out for help.

“If weight, food, or body image concerns are affecting your quality of life in any way, it’s important to seek support,” says Seguin.

A unique feature of Body Brave’s approach is their advocacy of lived experience. All Body Brave programs are facilitated by a health care professional as well as a trained, recovered peer support worker.

“At Body Brave, we all learn from each other and feed off each other’s strengths,” says Seguin. “When we address these issues as a community, it’s a powerful, inspiring experience.”

The Body Brave team is developing an in-house training program to encourage more recovered individuals to inspire and influence others in their communities.

Body Brave’s vision is to eventually become a national recovery community that works with treatment programs. To further reduce barriers to treatment, the team is developing online support programs and a mobile app.

Seguin encourages those interested in learning more about Body Brave’s services to attend their open house on Feb. 25. Drop by the centre on Main Street East between 1 and 5 p.m. to learn about Body Brave’s programming and meet the staff.

Take 5 for Innovation: Self-care strategies for entrepreneurs
1. Get social: Seek out peers and mentors to offer support surrounding the challenges and frustrations of entrepreneurship.
2. Optimize your work space: Keep your office organized and ensure there is good light, ventilation and ergonomic flow.
3. Embrace failure: Setbacks do not mean you lack the skills needed to succeed. See failure as a learning opportunity.
4. Champion good mental health: Create a supportive work environment that enhances mental well-being for your employees.
5. Know when to switch off: 24-7 connectivity is a modern expectation, but sometimes it’s helpful to unplug.

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