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‘Healing’ the Eating Disorder Stigma

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Liana Rosenman is the co-founder of Project HEAL, a nonprofit organization that provides grant funding to people who cannot afford treatment for their eating Liana Rosenmandisorders. After struggling with anorexia as a teenager, Rosenman started the program to educate the public about eating disorders and help both women and men recover from their illness and achieve a healthy, stable life. Her work has helped raise over half a million dollars to fund recovery treatments and has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Glamour.

NYMM had the opportunity to speak to NEST teacher and graduate student Rosenman about her achievements and ongoing efforts to end the stigma against eating disorders.

NYMM: How did Project HEAL start?

LR: Project HEAL began in 2008. My cofounder Kristina Saffran and I actually met in treatment in 2006. We were both being treated for anorexia and saw a lot of people facing the same obstacles. However, something really upsetting was that insurance wouldn’t cover many people’s treatments. We would see a lot of the other patients getting kicked out before they were ready. Even though they wanted to be there and get better, the only thing that was standing in their way were finances. The second thing was the idea that full recovery was possible. There was never a person to look up to that was like, ‘I’ve been in your shoes. It will get better.’ We wanted a role model and no one existed for us to look up to or to talk to.Dessert First HEAL

NYMM: What is the purpose of Project HEAL?

LR: Our mission is to provide treatment grants for those who can’t afford it. 90% of people with eating disorders don’t get the help that they need, which is often due to financial reasons. Residential treatment can cost about $30,000 a month. We provide treatment through our fundraising, and we also have 18 treatment center partners that provide one free treatment for our applicants a year.

NYMM: What specific services does the organization provide to people suffering from eating disorders?

LR: People can directly apply for a scholarship to receive treatment. We’ll cover anything from the treatment to new recovery clothing to family visits to rent if they’re out of work. We have 40 chapters across the United States and internationally that host fundraising events and engagements for people in the community. We are also launching our first recovery book. It’s going to be a combination of different stories, something that has never really been done before. You may not connect with everyone’s story, but there will be a personal account for everyone.

NYMM: What has reception been like since launching Project HEAL?

LR: We’ve definitely become the premier voice of “recovery is possible.” We’ve done that through this campaign where we ask people to take a picture holding a HEAL Concertsign saying, “Recovery is…” and then fill in the blank. I think what makes Kristina and I so unique is that Project HEAL is a huge part of who we are but it’s not everything that we are. There’s so many parts of recovery and enjoying life that people like to see that shows you don’t have to be imprisoned by an eating disorder.

NYMM: What achievements has Project HEAL made?

This past year, we had a fundraiser with Uber and raised half a million dollars in one night, which was a life-changing event for us. Kristina and I this year created two public service announcements, which I think really captures Project HEAL, our mission, and what we do. We’ve also gotten some really cool awards like Glamour’s “21 Under-21 Young Women of the World.”

But, my favorite accomplishments are always seeing our treatment grant recipients and watching them grow. It’s so cool to see because if they didn’t get a scholarship, who knows where they might be or if any of this would have been possible.

To learn more about Rosenman’s organization, visit Project HEAL’s website and Facebook. To apply for a treatment grant, click here.

Photos by Project HEAL.

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