McGill research leader explores the role of genetics in eating disorders at 11th Annual Sheena's Place Breakfast presented by Scotiabank

On-campus support programs piloted at four Toronto schools

TORONTO, Feb. 10, 2012 /CNW/ - Those affected by eating disorders possess a genetic predisposition which when "switched on" by cultural factors, triggers the onset of the illness according to Dr. Howard Steiger, Director, Eating Disorders Program at the Douglas Institute and Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University. Today Dr. Steiger offered his findings at the 11th Annual Sheena's Place Awareness Breakfast, presented by Scotiabank in support of Sheena's Place. Sheena's Place, a community-based registered charity, offers hope and support to individuals, families and friends affected by eating disorders by providing a wide range of professionally facilitated support groups and services.

"Eating disorders show us how problems of adjustment often involve a collision between genetic susceptibilities and environmental pressures," said Dr. Steiger. "One of the pressures, in this case, is the social pressure to be thin. We're starting to make some headway in unraveling the genetic part."

In his address Dr. Steiger also emphasized that through the years there has been a shift in how we understand the causes of eating disorders and treatment approaches have evolved accordingly.

"Dr. Steiger's remarks underscore that not one, but various causes are often at the root of an individual's struggle with an eating disorder. At Sheena's Place we provide these individuals and their caregivers with support in the form of individual information interviews and support groups tailored for individuals or families and friends. These free services are available within 72 hours of first contact and 24/7 on our website," said Lee Giles, Executive Director of Sheena's Place.

In addition to services offered at their downtown location, Sheena's Place recently introduced piloting support groups for students on four campuses in collaboration with The University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University and Seneca College. The professionally facilitated support groups are provided through support from the Vital Toronto Fund at the Toronto Community Foundation.

"We are thrilled to be able to bring support closer to the student population," said Sue Banting, Sheena's Place Board Chair. "I have always wished that student help could be made available.  Now, students affected by eating disorders will have improved access to vital support right on their own campuses by signing up at their on-campus counseling centres."

"The 11th Annual Sheena's Place Awareness Breakfast, presented by Scotiabank, capped off Eating Disorders Awareness Week which began on February 5, 2012, and runs through February 11, 2012. CTV Toronto's Andria Case hosted the event attended by 350 supporters.

"Health care is an important focus of Scotiabank's Bright Future community giving program, and as one of Canada's largest employers, we are also committed to wellness," said Arlene Russell, Senior Vice-President and Head of Shared Services at Scotiabank and Sheena's Place board member. "Sheena's Place supports Toronto by providing much-needed health and wellness services to community members affected by eating disorders and Scotiabank is proud to continue supporting their incredible work." 

Carrie Cox de los Santos, a former Sheena's Place client, bravely shared her story of her battle with an eating disorder and her journey to living a recovered life.  Her message was clear: seek help and seek it early.

"Eating disorders take away your voice.  Sheena's Place helped me find it again so that I was able to recover from anorexia nervosa.  I would not be here, standing before you as a wife, an elementary teacher, a PhD candidate, a daughter, and a mother-to-be without the support of Sheena's Place," said Mrs. Cox de los Santos.  "Sheena's Place provides clients with weekly support groups, reliable information, a safe space to begin healing and, most importantly, hope.  It gives you back the possibility of truly living your life."

About Howard Steiger
Howard Steiger is Director of the Eating Disorders Program (EDP) of the Douglas University Institute in Mental Health, Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University and Associate Member in Psychology at McGill. He is an active clinician, researcher, and teacher, and has published numerous clinical, scientific and theoretical articles and book chapters on the Eating Disorders (EDs). Steiger directs the only large-scale, specialized program for the treatment of adults suffering eating disorders in the Province of Quebec, a program offering a full range of Inpatient, Day Hospital/Day Program and Outpatient treatments. Steiger is a recent Past President of the Eating Disorders Research Society (2007-2008) and past Board and Executive-Committee member of the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED: 2007-2009). He is currently Co-President of the Quebec Government's committee to develop a "Charter for Healthy and Diversified Body Images". He was recipient, in 2010, of the Academy for Eating Disorders' Leadership Award for Clinical, Educational or Administrative Service.

About Sheena's Place
Centrally located in downtown Toronto, Sheena's Place is a community-based registered charity that offers a comprehensive program of support groups that give individuals with eating disorders and their families a safe place to give and receive support. These support groups nourish hope and provide courage for individuals to carry on with dignity, making choices about their own path to recovery. No referral is necessary and we respect the need and desire for confidentiality. Our programs are offered at no cost to participants and can be accessed within 72 hours of first contact.  In 1996 Sheena's Place opened and offered groups to 65 clients. Last year, over 1,100 people attended support groups and over 300 attended individual information interviews. In response to the over 160,000 site specific visits to their website, Sheena's Place developed an eLearning module for parents coping with a young adult with an eating disorder. We are able to provide these free services thanks to the generosity and financial support of individuals, corporations, foundations, and the proceeds from our special events.

About Scotiabank
Scotiabank is committed to supporting the communities in which we live and work, both in Canada and abroad, through our global philanthropic program, Scotiabank Bright Future. Recognized as a leader internationally and among Canadian corporations for our charitable donations and philanthropic activities, Scotiabank has provided on average approximately $45 million annually to community causes around the world over each of the last five years. Visit us at

SOURCE Scotiabank - Sponsorships

For further information:

Deborah Clark, Scotiabank Media Communications, 416-933-0646

Kara Merpaw, Scotiabank Media Communications, 416-866-3792

Lee Giles, Executive Director Sheena's Place, 416-927-8900 ext. 23


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