Healthy relationships with food and substances on campus

Funding body: BC Mental Health Society Branch

Background: This project aims to develop a strategy for addressing the intersection of eating difficulties and substance use problems in the post-secondary setting. The project involves bringing campus stakeholders together to discuss the complex intersections of food and substance use on campus, and to identify prevention and intervention strategies to reduce harm and promote health. While students often experience a continuum of healthy to unhealthy relationships with food and substances, the co-occurrence of “binge eating” and “binge drinking” is associated with increased risk and harm. In fact, many of the behaviours traditionally associated with unhealthy patterns of alcohol consumption (especially problems at work or school and regretted sexual activity) are increased when “binge eating” and “binge drinking” occur together.

The project is part of our ongoing work with BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information and is a collaboration with Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHA BC), and the Jessie’s Legacy Eating Disorders Prevention and Awareness Program of Family Services of the North Shore (JL).

Campus members experience a variety of relationships (some healthy, some not) with food, alcohol and other drugs. When we think about campus members and their relationships with food and substances, there are a variety of factors that influence a person’s choices. These include environmental factors related to the institutional context (e.g., policies, academic and financial pressures, the built environment including access to food and alcohol) as well as personal and interpersonal factors related to past experience, the transition to a new setting, practices of socialization/isolation, mental health and a host of other things. These factors interact with each other to produce both positive and negative impacts.

Funded by the BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, this project has to date involved engaging with BC post-secondary campuses to explore what institutions can do to mitigate negative impacts related to food and substances and to help in collective ways to create a culture that is conducive to healthy practices. The goal is to help post-secondary institutions move forward on challenges and opportunities and determine how CARBC, JL, and CMHA BC might support them.


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