Our Impact Why We Exist
Following the death of Sheena Carpenter in 1994 due to complications from an eating disorder, Sheena’s Place opened its doors as a truly one-of-a-kind community mental health organization in downtown Toronto. We focus our work on the mental well-being of individuals, families, and communities, with a specialization in providing hope and support for those affected by eating disorders.
Across Canada, as many as 600,000-900,000 people meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder at any given time (LeBlanc, 2014), with the rates of new eating disorder cases increasing since 1950 (Hudson et al., 2007; Streigel-Moore & Franko, 2003; Wade et al., 2011). Unfortunately, this increase in the development of eating disorders has beendisproportionately matched with an increase in services, evidenced by the fact that only 1 in 10 individuals living with an eating disorder will ever receive treatment (Noordenbox, 2002). As eating disorders, particularly anorexia, have thehighest mortality rate of any mental illness, with 18 – 20% of individuals dying within 20 years of developing the disease (Cavanaugh, 1999), this lack of services is detrimental.
Our Story What We Do
With a goal of meeting clients wherever they are at in their recovery journey, our support services and therapeutic groups fill a necessary gap in the healthcare system. For many, Sheena’s Place is the first point of contact for people coming to terms with this illness, providing psycho-education, understanding and an ongoing supportive community. We aid in preparing individuals for hospital programs, supplementing medical treatment, and providing ongoing support for those in recovery. As a charity that receives no government funding, we are very proud of serving over 1100 clients per year. Sheena's Place also provides important eating disorder awareness, education, and prevention services to anyone in need or seeking more information.
Our Programs How We Do It
Sheena’s Place program objectives and activities are multi-fold:
- Provide direct service in the form of professionally facilitated support groups to those with eating disorders, their families and friends.
- Provide Drop-In & Information Interviews for prospective clients to learn more about the agency.
- Raise awareness about eating disorders, healthy eating and positive body image.
- Share our knowledge with other leading healthcare professionals and the media.
- Provide resources on eating disorders and related issues through our library, and our website.
- Provide training and supervision for university and college students from a variety of disciplines including social work, nurses, mental health, and marketing.
- Provide community based presentations to raise awareness.
Research shows direct support groups provide people affected by eating disorders with an important sense of well being and community. Sheena's Place provides free-of-charge group support, and each week we provide beetween 25-30 groups and events for clients. In our groups, clients with similar issues and concerns come together to share experiences, thoughts, feelings, and coping strategies. The facilitators that lead each group session have an extensive background and direct experience in working with individuals with eating disorders. The facilitators, often mental health clinicians from community and hospital programs, are paid by Sheena's Place on a fee for service basis.
Groups reflect different themes and areas of focus including:
- Support Groups: Individuals help each other by sharing stories and receiving encouragement from others. There are groups for young adults, adults, college and university students, mothers, women at mid life, and there are groups specifically for families, friends and partners of those with eating disorders.
- Body Image Groups: Through gentle physical movement like dance, nia, and yoga, participants rediscover strengths, and learn new ways to manage the stresses of daily life.
- Skill Building Groups: These groups present new ways of coping and strategies for making changes.
- Expressive Arts Groups: Participants find their “voice” through the various art mediums to express feelings and release difficult emotions.
Funding and Program Partners
There are no funding partners. We are the only organization of this type in Toronto and the GTA.
Our expertise, however, is sought after and as a result we have collaborated with the following groups in the GTA: 519 Church; Buddies in Bad Times Theatre; CAMH; Canadian Institute of Health Research; George Brown College; Girls on the Run; H.E.Y.Y. (Hearing Every Youth through Youth); Humber River Health Centre; Kids Help Phone; NEDIC (National Eating Disorder Information Centre); Nightwood Theatre; Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders; Project Act – in affiliation with the Mixed Company; Rexdale Community Health Centre; Ryerson University; Scadding Court Community Centre; The Hospital for Sick Children; Toronto City Hall's International Women’s Week Committee/Event; Toronto General Hospital; University of Toronto; York University; Youth Link; and the Youth Philanthropy Initiatives – Toskan Foundation.
Walking into Sheena’s Place is the first step towards recovery, moving out of isolation and into a supportive community. Clients can access support within 72 hours of contact. In 2015, we served 1,100 individuals. We receive regular client feedback to communicate through self-report the impact our group programs are making. The most recent evaluations reveal some examples of how people are impacted by our group programs, Clients reported:
· Feel hopeful for positive change (92%)
· Feel more able to make positive change (92%)
· Feel motivated to improve their life (98%)
· Feel supported because of Sheena's Place programs (98%)
Sheena's Place is currently working with the Unviersity of Waterloo and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to study the impact of Sheena's Place groups formally. The research study Investigating the Impact of Sheena's Place Groups is currently in the data collection phase. It will be one of the first studies examining the outcomes of an outpatient, community support centre for eating disorders.
We also know our impact is signficant for those who face certain barriers to accessing specialized eating disorder treatment. 60% of our clients are not currently receiving other treatment or services for eating disorders. There exist many potential reasons for this, but we know that there exist financial barriers, among others, to accessing immediate eating disorder care. Hospital treatment programs that are OHIP covered often have significant waitlists for care, while private treatment centres are not a feasible option for many people struggling with an eating disorder. Many of our clients rely on parents, partners, ODSP, Ontario Works, and employment insurance for income. Many are unable to work, or have difficulties finding employment. Only 44% of our clients financially support themselves through employment. Sheena's Place's services are free and immediate, providing support to anyone who self-refers and is in need.
A Letter from a client in the Family Friends and Partners group:
I hate that people have called my ten-year-old son an anorexic, because I refuse to let it define him. I prefer to say he has anorexia. It is a disease that will be transient even if it takes years to overcome. It is not who he is or will be even though there are days now when it is all there is in his life.
I hate anorexia. I hate it because there are days when it is all that is in my life too -- I hate that I can't grocery shop anymore without seeing aisles of challenges and problems. I can't do laundry without seeing my son's small clothes that are two sizes smaller than they were a year ago. I hate that I can't do my job reliably anymore and have to consider resigning. I hate that joy has been taken out of holidays, time alone with my husband, weekends, family gatherings, school trips, birthday parties, sporting events and even clothing because I have to be vigilant any time there is food or exercise involved. I have to watch for evidence of self-harm under too many layers.
I hate anorexia. Most of all I hate the relentless pain my son has to endure, the self-loathing, isolation, sadness and hunger he feels. The deprivation he insists on, that reaches beyond food to social events, toys and other ten-year-old boy interests.
That's a lot of hate. However, from the first phone call, when I opened with "I need help", Sheena's place has helped me turn that hate into more productive feelings. That is the best thing about Sheena's Place for me – it drives me forward and makes me feel like I am moving through something, not stuck in it.
My weekly support group is 90 minutes, in seven days, where I feel heard, understood and not alone. I feel the hope of the other mothers and am bolstered by their bravery and inspired by their resourcefulness and intelligence. I get real concrete advice and information about a disease that is a moving target in a healthcare system that is strained and sometimes difficult to navigate. I find myself listening intently for the nugget of truth that's going to get me through hard situations and prepare me for ones I have yet to face, and it always comes through either with a concrete suggestion, a story that resonates with my experience or a resource that I have found helpful.
Lately Sheena's Place has helped me reframe my rage, fear and sadness into a mantra I repeat to myself often throughout the day:
My love is bigger, my patience greater and my hope stronger than anorexia. It is not going to take my son. It is not going to ruin my family.
Thank you for caring to ask how I feel, for answering so many questions about the disease, and for bringing resources, experience, patience and a smile to every encounter. Your work is so important and I am greatly indebted to you and Sheena's Place.
We are committed to raising awareness and providing education about eating disorders to the communities we serve. Our community outreach initiatives target a range of groups and individuals including front line health care workers, mental health professionals, students, teachers, and parents. We regularly provide presentations, educational workshops, and professional consultation to different groups in the Toronto community. Evidence-based education topics range from body image, media literacy, eating disorder prevetnion, self-esteem, mental health, stress management, supporting a loved one, eating disorder diagnostics, contributing factors and illness onset, evidence-based treatment approaches, eating disorder treatment programs in Toronto, as well as other related information. In the most recent year, we provided outreach services to groups such as: The University of Toronto, Umbrella Daycare, CIBC's Workability Employee Network, Ryerson University, Delisle Youth Services, the Provinicial Opioid Case Managers Network, Rexdale Women's Centre, the Randolph Academy, Child Development Resource Connection Peel, as well as several senior public and secondary schools through the Toronto District School Board, and Toronto private schools.
In addition to educational sessions, our lending library offers over 600 books on eating disorders and related issues, and is often a primary resource for our clients, particularly new clients wanting to learn more.Our comprehensive website also registered 164,500 site specific visits in one year. As the need for our services and information about eating disorders continues to grow we are assessing new ways to reach more individuals and to share our knowledge in a more meaningful way.
Despite significant prevalence rates of eating disorders in our community and in Canada, many people say they are not able to identify the signs or recognize related factors. A growing body of international evidence demonstrates that health promotion, prevention, and early intervention initiatives targeting eating disorders are effective and show positive returns on investment. The impact of our outreach programs which include health promotion, education, and prevention initiatives are significant and growing. Over the past year, Sheena's Place staff provided 27 presentations across the GTA. The total audience we reached directly was 2,960 individuals, while potential reach to indirect audiences (via knowledge transfer and trickle down of information), would add to the total audience.
Our community outreach and online initiatives are essential to the health and well-being of our city and in keeping with our mission of providing support, and raising awareness.
“Sheena's Place is committed to providing tangible help to individuals for whom resources are scarce to none. In Toronto, there are only ten publicly funded hospital beds to treat those with an eating disorder. In addition, individuals often require becoming "treatment-motivated" and Sheena's Place's non-judgmental support group model plays a pivotal role for those waiting for treatment and for those who are in recovery.
Our organization (the Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders) has enjoyed a long-term partnership and strategic relationship with Sheena's Place. Both of our organizations focus on promoting choices to improve body satisfaction and body care, self esteem, well-being and healthy lifestyles.
Sheena's Place is a highly regarded registered charity in Toronto. We have been impressed with their numerous awareness activities promoting the role of healthy eating and active living in the context of overall body positive health.”
- Dr. Gail McVey, Director, Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders
Volunteerism and Mentorship
Our volunteers are a passionate, talented and dedicated team. They welcome and supply information to our clients in person, and on the phone, offer essential support at special events and assist in education, outreach and fundraising. Without them we could not provide the range of services we offer to those in need of our assistance and support.
As a teaching organization, Sheena’s Place offers placements to university and college students from a range professional programs. Their youth, energy and intelligence bring new perspectives, their ideas enrich our programs, their dedication and their commitment help us to expand our service delivery. By increasing their understanding of eating disorders. Sheena’s Place is helping to educate tomorrow’s healthcare practitioners.
Our volunteers make an impact in our workplace and our community. In 2015, 20 Sheena's Place volunteers provided 3, 484 hours of service to our organization and to our community. From administration to speaking in the community, fundraising and supporting special projects. Many of our volunteers have been affected by eating disorders previously, and offer themselves as volunteers in order to give back because of the support they received at Sheena's Place.
Our students gain a greater understanding of the complexities of eating disorders and how to apply their new knowledge when they join the work force. This year Sheena's Place's clinical team will be providing supervision to students from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Social Work, Faculty, of Medicine, and Faculty of Occupational Therapy. We supervise 6 students over the course of the year. This helps impact the health of the Toronto community by training future health professionals to detect illness earlier (leading to earlier intervention and better health outcomes), as well as building their capacity for working effectively with individuals struggling.
“This placement provided me with a wide array of opportunities that assisted in broadening my skills for a career in social work. During my time here, I co-facilitated support groups, worked at the front desk answering phones and helping people, conducted interviews for those seeking more information about groups, and participated in a number of special events and health education fairs."
- Danielle Woodcock, Previous Student from the Master of Social Work Program at University of Toronto
What You Can Do
Activities a donation will support
Funding can be directed towards any of the following groups that we offer throughout the year:
- Young Adults
- Mothers of Children with Eating Disorders
- Mother with an Eating Disorder
- Families, Friends
- Adults at Mid-Life and Beyond
- Monthly Men's Meet-Up
- Restorative Yoga
- Tai Chi
- Living in the Body We're In
- Addictions and Eating Disorders
- Ways to Stop Bingeing
- Taking Charge of My Life
- Building and Maintaining Healthy Relationships
- Perfectionism in Perspectice
- Relapse Prevention
- Trauma and Eating Disorders
- Eating Management and Nutrition Workshops
- Open Art Studio
Other new innovative programs such as Sheena's Camp, a What to Expect at Treatment: Q & A, Gardening for Wellness, CBT for Eating Disorders and Addictions etc.
We are the only place where individuals with an eating disorder and their families/friends can access support in Toronto. Funding will sustain free, professionally led support groups that can be accessed within 72 hours of contact. Each group offers clients hope and courage to carry on with dignity and make informed life choices about their own health and recovery. This support is a life line for our clients. Clients have increased self-esteem due to more effective guidance and support.The broader community benefits though the sharing of best practices with other organizations who are replicating our support centre model. We thank all of our donors and friends who support the work that we do, with your gifts we are able to support our clients in their journey to recovery.
Do you want to make a difference in the lives of clients struggling with eating disorders by helping raise funds through special events. We welcome individuals and groups organizing special events to raise funds for Sheena's Place. Please contact Angela at 416 927-8900 ext. 25 for more information.