By Judy Krasna
After my daughter took her own life almost 3 months ago, I felt like I had to return immediately to the path of eating disorders advocacy and activism that I had been on for the past 7+ years.
While part of me wanted to take a break so that I could have more of an opportunity to come to terms with the enormous loss that I was experiencing and face the grief that accompanies a tragedy of this magnitude, I realized that I would do better if I were to grieve through purpose. I need purpose.
In addition to getting back to my regular activities at F.E.A.S.T. and continuing to support other parents, there were two things that were really important for me to get done immediately following the traditional Jewish mourning period of shiva.
The first was setting up a charity project in memory of my daughter, Gavriella. In the Jewish faith, we believe that acts of kindness that we do in a person’s memory can elevate their soul in heaven. Gavriella was unfailingly kind and extraordinarily generous, and we wanted to memorialize her in a way that paid tribute to the giving, caring person who she was, and that did not involve the illness that took her life. We decided to raise funds to renovate and refurbish the soccer field at the children’s home where Gavriella worked as a substitute mom to a group of kids who were removed from their families by social services for all sorts of terrible reasons. Gavriella was never happier than when she was with “her” kids, and this children’s home where she worked is a remarkable place doing inspirational work. We know that Gavriella would have wanted us to memorialize her through helping the kids who she loved so much and building them a safe, comfortable place to play.
The second thing that I really wanted to do was to set up a webinar for clinicians about treating suicidality and eating disorders. The percentage of eating disorder patients with suicidal ideation is high; and as such, providers need to be trained to treat suicidality.
My daughter was not an anomaly. During the years that her eating disorder included suicidality, we found it impossible to get her treatment for both issues; she could either receive treatment for her eating disorder or she could receive treatment for suicidality, but they were mutually exclusive.
This, of course, is totally ludicrous, not to mention ineffective, since suicidality and depression are known to be common co-morbid conditions in individuals who suffer with eating disorders. Both conditions must be treated simultaneously if there is to be any chance of recovery.
I approached Dr. Lucene Wisniewski shortly after the loss of my daughter and asked her whether she would consider doing a webinar on the topic of suicidality in eating disorders. I explained why the topic was so personal and critical to me, and she graciously agreed. I thought of her because I went to a workshop at the International Conference on Eating Disorders a few years ago where she was on a panel presenting about suicidality, and she really blew me away. In fact, all 3 panelists were just outstanding. Though the workshop was directed toward clinicians, as a parent, I walked away with a huge amount of practical knowledge.
At first, I thought about doing this webinar for Israeli clinicians since I live in Israel, but then I realized that this is a global issue and that the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) would reach a broader clinician audience, which was really the goal. I am both pleased and appreciative that the AED took the ball and ran with it, and that Scott Crow and Emily Pisetsky, the other 2 presenters in the workshop that I referenced above, will be joining Lucene Wisniewski for this webinar as well.
The webinar will take place on Wednesday, September 30 at noon EDT; and as per my request, the webinar is also open to non-AED members so that parents, Israeli clinicians, and anyone else who is interested can participate. Here is the information on the webinar, and here is the link to register. If you have the ability to attend, I highly encourage you to do so. Trust me, it’s extremely worthwhile.
Just like at F.E.A.S.T we believe that educating parents leads to empowerment, I believe the same to be true for clinicians. I initiated this webinar because I want to help empower clinicians to treat the patients that scare them the most, and to do it proficiently and skillfully, by offering them the knowledge and tools that will better enable them to treat suicidality in eating disorders and ultimately save lives. I am hoping that the webinar will accomplish this goal, and I am extremely grateful to the presenters and to the AED for helping me honor my daughter’s memory through educating clinicians on this difficult yet critically important topic.