By Elizabeth Zakaim
If you looked into one of the mirrors decorating the table set up in the Eickhoff Hall Atrium on Thursday, Feb. 18, you wouldn’t just see your reflection — you’d also see a message such as “be the best you can be” or “love yourself” written on the mirror. These positive messages were a part of the Beautiful Reflections display designed by the peer educators of the College’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
Students who entered the dining hall between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. were invited to write affirming messages on the mirrors before them. They could then trade mirrors and review the other messages their peers had left behind.
“The purpose of Eating Disorders Awareness Month (EDAM) is to reduce the stigma around eating disorders, inform the community about the effects of eating disorders, inform those with eating disorders that there are on-campus resources available to them and help others understand what it is like to experience an eating disorder,” junior psychology major and CAPS peer educator Claudia Gargano said.
The College’s peer educators host a variety of events throughout the year with the goal of increasing awareness surrounding the issue of mental health. Beautiful Reflections marks the first of three events organized by the group in acknowledgement of EDAM. The purpose of this event was “to inspire positive body image and get people thinking about Eating Disorders Awareness Month,” according to Gargano.
Gargano and two other peer educators were stationed at the table throughout the event. Junior psychology major and chair of CAPS’s peer educators program, Caitlin Loyka, said that this event has been in place for two years.
“When people see their reflections, they can be reminded of just how beautiful they are, as their peers see them,” Loyka said.
While the event was led by the CAPS peer educators, it was co-sponsored by Active Minds, a mental health awareness club on campus.
“Eating disorders are far more common than most people realize,” junior psychology major and Active Minds Secretary Jessica Roman said. “Creating (an) open discussion helps people understand the struggles and hopefully encourages anyone thinking of getting help to in fact seek the help they may need. There is absolutely no shame in getting help.”
Freshmen biology majors Zara Rasif and Sandra Phan both stopped by the event to write words of encouragement. Phan had read about Beautiful Reflections on Facebook, while Rasif said she had a similar event in her high school. Both understood the significance of the event and were happy to contribute to it. They hope their messages will have a positive impact on those struggling with body images and confidence.
Beautiful Reflections and the other upcoming EDAM events are particularly important because they encourage people not to shy away from the sometimes sensitive topics of eating disorders and mental health.
“The events dispel any myths surrounding eating disorders and encourage open discussion about eating disorders,” Roman said.
In addition to spreading awareness about mental health and eating disorders, the event also serves as a reminder to those struggling with body image that they are not alone.
“It’s hard to bring up an eating disorder to someone because it makes it something real, but going through it alone is even harder,” Gargano said. “We hope that through writing positive messages on the mirrors, students will inspire each other to see themselves in a positive and beautiful way.”