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By David Friend

Cuts to provincial eating-disorder programs have Ryerson health staff campaigning to help save lives.

There are talks Ryerson’s eating disorder outreach co-ordinator, Fiona Downie, may not have her contact renewed for the next academic year. Without a therapist on campus, students will need to consult private psychologists for treatment advice.

In November, Toronto General Hospital decided to shorten day treatment for recovering eating disorder patients from five days to four, as well as cut its relapse prevention program and medical stabilization unit.

That means Ryerson students suffering from eating disorders who don’t qualify as “critical” would have to rely on health counselling or off-campus specialists, said Downie.

But “a patient’s condition can worsen if they depend on psychiatrists for a solution,” said Ann Kerr, program director at Sheena’s Place, an eating disorder support group.

“If they can’t deal with their medical condition, they’re not going to be (alive) long enough to deal with psychiatric issues.”

Downie has partnered with university staff and local support groups for Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which runs Feb. 4-10.

This is the first time Ryerson is participating. Clinically serious anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, killing about 20 per cent of those diagnosed.

Overall, eating disorders affect about five per cent of the population, primarily young women.

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