Maggie Bertram, Active Minds speaker and former anorexia nervosa patient, came to the Hill on Feb. 26 to share an intimate and eye-opening story of her diagnosis and subsequent battle with eating disorders. Her presentation was one of the events sponsored by the college as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW). Students teamed up with Hamilton’s Active Minds chapter to organize speakers, events and an extensive awareness campaign in hopes of reducing the stigma associated with eating disorders and providing support for students currently suffering.
While Bertram was battling an eating disorder in college, no awareness campaigns or student mental health organizations existed. Bertram, who is now program manager of Student-Led Initiatives for Active Minds Inc., was excited for the opportunity to share her story with the Hamilton community. Active Minds Inc., currently celebrating its tenth anniversary, is an international organization dedicated to decreasing the stigma and shame associated with mental disorders, specifically on college campuses.
Hamilton’s chapter was founded last spring and, although still small, is composed of highly dedicated students who are passionate about “changing the conversation” of mental disorders. Bertram wishes an organization like Active Minds existed while she was in college and is glad to say that now more than 400 chapters exist in the United States and Canada.
Bertram, who used to be a high school teacher, easily engaged her audience with a candid and confident speaking style. Her story fluctuated between funny and heartbreaking by providing personal anecdotes about the inspirational process of overcoming anorexia and major depression. She not only provided intimate details of her struggle but also spoke about how to help someone who is suffering from an eating disorder. “The best thing to do is just be there” she explained, when her friends and family stopped telling her to get better and instead helped her feel supported and cared about, she agreed to the hospitalization that would save her life.
Her presentation helped personalize disorders that affect between 10-25 percent of college students. While in school, Bertram talked to a school counselor and recommended it as an incredible resource. Hamilton’s counseling center is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM and can be reached at (315) 859-4340. Bertram emphasized that no one is alone in his or her struggle. Family and friends need not say the perfect thing or try to fix a loved one, simply being there is the best help you can give.