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5 Ways to Advocate and Promote Awareness on your Campus

By Laura Porter--When I began advocacy on my campus, I wasn’t sure where to look first. My main goal was to talk to as many people as possible to figure out what I could do.  After a lot of meetings and research, I formed Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge at GW (SPEAK GW), an advocacy organization at my school.  

If you’re interested in becoming an advocate on your campus, check out these amazing resources and event toolkits from Proud2BMe On Campus, as well as this great webinar about how to be an eating disorder advocate on YOUR campus! 

Here are five ideas that helped me promote awareness at my university. 

1. Talk to your administrators

This may sound nerve-wracking and can be intimidating at first, but your deans and campus administrators want to help. They got into this profession for a reason and, in my experience, love to work with students.  Find a way to connect with an administrator who oversees health and wellness, the dean of students or some other staff that can help you advocate for eating disorder awareness.  I tweeted at one of our deans and ended up connecting with various people who helped me form my student organization.  You can find email addresses and phone numbers on your school’s website.  

Once you have reached out, make sure to be prepared for your meeting and come with a list of questions for them.  They probably won’t be your main point of contact going forward, but they can be a helpful resource to point you in the right direction.

2. Talk to your counseling center and see what resources are available

The counseling center is a valuable resource to help you find what’s available so you can determine what’s needed.  When I started SPEAK at GW, there was not a lot of information available for students about eating disorders.  One of our goals was to provide students with information and connections to resources on and off campus.  Reach out to your counseling center to find out what resources are available through the university. Gaining the knowledge of these resources will be invaluable when you’re advocating.  People may come to you looking for help and when they do, you want to know where to send them so they can get the help they need.

If you see a lack of resources on your campus, use some of the other tools on this list to advocate for more resources. Talk with administrators in the counseling center about what students need. Make informational materials unique to your school such as a list of resources, and if you have the funding, grab some informational pamphlets from the NEDA store.  Look for what’s missing and ask yourself and others what your campus needs. Reach out to as many people as you can to help you get what you need, and emphasize the good that it does for them as well!

3. Partner with a student organization that is doing the work you want to do

Look for student organizations who are already doing the work you want to do.  It doesn’t have to be a specific eating disorder advocacy organization, but if it is, that’s fantastic!  Your campus may have health organizations, mental health advocacy organizations (like Active Minds) or peer educators. These are some great places to start reaching out to.  See if they are interested in holding events for NEDAwareness week or general informational sessions to teach people about eating disorders.  Having an established campus organization help you meet your goal can be really helpful as they have experience running and operating a student organization.

4. Start a campus organization

I started SPEAK GW because I saw a need that I thought wasn’t being met.  There was no group talking about eating disorders and there were very few resources available to students struggling.  I wanted to provide students with an organization that would encourage a dialogue among students, faculty and administrators about eating disorders and how we can promote awareness while better serving the community.  I put in a lot of hard work and effort into launching the organization, but I didn’t do it alone.  Make sure you’re ready to take on this task and get a strong team to help you get going.  Schools have different requirements to create student organizations, but a quick Google search should help you figure out what you need to do.  You can check out the SPEAK GW Facebook, Twitter and website to find out about the work we do and get some ideas for your organization.

5. Host a NEDA walk or a NEDAwareness week event

NEDA walks are great ways to get your school and community involved in eating disorder awareness.  Bring your community together to participate in a walk or host a NEDA Awareness week event and demonstrate how important awareness and education are on your campus and in your community.  Need some event ideas? Check out the 2015 NEDA awareness week website!

About this blogger: Laura Porter is a junior at The George Washington University majoring in political communication with a minor in psychology. After taking three semesters off of school for her own mental health struggles, Laura became passionate about advocating for increased awareness of mental illness among college students, specifically eating disorder awareness.  Laura currently serves as the president of Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge at GW (SPEAK GW) as well as a communications intern at Active Minds Inc.  

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