Orangeville student calls for better mental health services

·2 min read

Sterling Renzoni had to make the difficult transition to virtual care when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted.

He was diagnosed with an eating disorder and entered residential care at The Hospital for Sick Children, where he received treatment for anorexia. Renzoni was also dealing with other mental health issues — all of which have given him a perspective on treatment available to those like him.

“My experience within the Ontario mental health-care system has shown me its strengths, it saved my life several times but, at the same time, the areas where it needs improvement,” said Renzoni.

According to the Government of Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on individuals with eating disorders (EDs) who are experiencing heightened psychological distress and symptoms and reduced motivation for recovery.

Caregivers are struggling with first-time home monitoring for their children and clinicians are challenged with providing the same level of care virtually while using unfamiliar technology with little direction.

The Orangeville native and Trent University student shared his experience in a blog post at Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.), located at www.feast-ed.org.

He said there is a lot of room for improvement within the mental health-care system, and there shouldn’t be month-long wait-lists to be admitted.

“I know what it feels like to dwindle on a waitlist where I was dying on the inside but not physically sick enough for urgent treatment,” said Renzoni. “No one should feel that way. At the same time, I have had the immense privilege of eventually receiving the treatment I needed to get better.”

After later being admitted to the hospital, he was released and began to receive outpatient care. This was when he started to relapse and re-engage in harmful behaviour.

“About five per cent of myself wanted to get better, but at the time, it wasn’t enough to overpower the disordered voice inside my head,” said Renzoni.

As most Canadian programs were not prepared for a major transition to virtual care, and hospital administrators struggled to support the surge in telemedicine, clinicians faced challenges in offering optimal care for these vulnerable populations.

“When I did go home, I was being supported virtually, receiving therapy, meeting with a dietician and a recreation therapist,” said Renzoni.

“There are many others that I know that aren't so lucky. I am continuing to advocate for mental health resources because everyone deserves to feel supported by the health-care system. Mental illness is hard enough to battle. No one deserves to battle the health-care system too.”

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Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner