Calgary Silver Linings Foundation
Our Story Why We Exist
It started innocuously enough – some leftover food on her plate at dinner, an extra work out here and there. Only it didn’t end there. It hasn’t ended.
Eventually, my teenage daughter, Madison, wasted away to a mere 90 pounds from restricted eating and obsessive over exercising. With a heart rate of 32 beats per minute, my beautiful, brilliant girl collapsed and was rushed to the emergency department at the Foothills Hospital. After a 52-hour stay in the emergency department with no available hospital bed, she was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and I was told she would need to be hospitalized.
Devastatingly, there were no beds available in the Eating Disorder (ED) program. Instead, my 16 year old was admitted to the psychiatric ward at the Rockyview Hospital where she received little support for her eating disorder and was released 5 days later. This cycle repeated itself three more times.
Finally, a bed opened up in the ED Program where Madison spent the following six weeks becoming medically stable, meaning that while she was no longer in immediate risk of dying, her illness raged on untreated.
After trying every locally available avenue for treatment, it became apparent that Madison needed more intensive treatment than what was currently being offered. We sought treatment outside of province, where Madison lived in a residential treatment centre for six months. I followed her, of course, quitting my job, trusting that my other child would be fine without me. I rented an apartment close to the treatment centre.
My lost income, my daughter’s medical fees, our expenses relocating for six months - none of this was covered through her medical insurance, but I was desperate to help Madison overcome this deadly disease before it overcame her and our family. The financial costs exceeded $150,000. The emotional costs remain immeasurable.
After maneuvering through the various channels of the health care system, I met many other parents dealing with the same issues. Some of their children had managed to recover through residential treatment outside the province, most were still caught up in the endless cycle of hospital readmissions and temporary stabilization. The parents of male patients had horror stories beyond even what I could imagine.
In 2014, these passionate, like-minded parents, who had been through similar heart-wrenching and difficult journeys, joined to form the Calgary Silver Linings Foundation to address current systemic gap in Alberta in treating eating disorders. Our goal is to establish Alberta’s first residential treatment centre for eating disorders to ensure other families have easier, more affordable and faster access to treatment for their children. Our goal is to save lives.
The name of the foundation reflects the hope that the process of recovery and family therapy, personal foundations and relationships can become stronger and patients and their families can recover – with the proper treatment. Although sometimes difficult to see, there is a silver lining in this journey. A residential treatment centre for Albertans can provide those families caught in the nightmare of trying to save their child from the mental illness with the highest mortality rate with a silver lining – a locally based, affordable treatment program for their children.
Our Impact What We Do
The Calgary Silver Linings Foundation (CSLF) is working collaboratively to create a world-class residential eating disorder treatment centre in Alberta and to bridge the gap in accessibility and care of eating disorders.
More than 30,000 Albertans (male and female) suffer from eating disorders, with no specialized provincial residential treatment facility for the illness. Calgary Silver Linings Foundation is the only Alberta foundation working towards the establishment of the province’s first eating disorder residential treatment centre in Southern Alberta.
Many Alberta youth suffer from severe eating disorders and building a residential treatment centre in Southern Alberta for at-risk youth is the first critical step in filling the systemic gap in services and reducing the number of repeat hospital admissions and deaths. The rate of girls between 10-19 years-old who had to be hospitalized from 2007-2013 increased by 42%. More than one-quarter of hospital emergency visits in Alberta for eating disorders include an admission to hospital for inpatient care and the average stay in hospital is 33 days. Eating disorders have the highest risk of mortality of any mental illness and residential treatment is necessary to break the cycle of hospital readmissions.
There are only four specialized residential treatment centres in Canada and most no longer accept out-of-province patients, leaving Alberta parents the limited option of going for treatment in the U.S., often unfeasible for many families. Treatment takes an average of three to six months.
Shortly after setting up the foundation, the Board of Directors organized an open house with the community of people affected directly by an eating disorder. This community conversation validated their intent as a priority of the community.
Donations to CSLF will go directly towards the capital costs associated with building Alberta’s first residential treatment centre for eating disorders, including site purchase or leasehold improvements of a partner and program design.
Our Programs How We Do It
1. Client Support Groups
CSLF offers 8-week support groups led by psychologists specialized in ED treatment to individuals 18 years and older. Clients have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their struggles and share their experiences, challenges and successes with each other in a safe and structured environment in order to maintain motivation and hope in the recovery process. Learn more about our client support program.
2. Parent Support Groups
CSLF offers 8-week support groups led by psychologists specialized in ED treatment for parents and loved ones coping with the many challenges of caring for someone they love with an eating disorder. Here, caregivers can learn skills to support their loved one, gain peer support and techniques for self-care during stressful times, gain a deeper understanding of eating disorders, and share experiences, challenges, successes, strategies and ideas with others facing similar struggles. Learn more about our parent support program.
We work collaboratively with partners at Alberta Health Services (AHS) and across the province to find points of intersection and retain Board advisors of experts in the treatment of ED, such as Blake Woodside, MD, FRPCP, Medical Director Emeritus, Program for Eating Disorders at the Toronto General Hospital, Director of the Inpatient Eating Disorders Service, and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto; and Gina Dimitropoulos, MSW, PhD, RSW, RMFT, Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Work, Department of Psychiatry (cross appointed), University of Calgary.
5. Fundraising Activities
We directly raise funds to advance our goal of establishing a residential treatment centre, including a recent run at the Grand Canyon by fathers of children with ED which raised $75, 000 towards the centre. You can get involved by visiting our donation page.
Our Requests What You Can Do
You can help ensure that residential treatment for Alberta youth suffering from Eating Disorders becomes universally accessible, timely and effective. You can help ensure fewer youth die as a result of their Eating Disorders, and help break the expensive and burdensome cycle of hospital readmissions on our healthcare system.
Donations to CSLF will go directly towards the capital costs associated with building Alberta’s first residential treatment centre for eating disorders, including site purchase or leasehold improvements of a partner and program design. Click here to learn more about donating.
You can help provide a silver lining to children suffering from eating disorders and their families.