Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Wake-Up Call

One of my all-time favorite movies is Clueless. Say what you want about it, but everything about it makes me laugh. My best friend gave me that movie for my birthday shortly after it came out years ago, and I probably know all of the words by heart. When I heard Sunday that Brittany Murphy, the actress who played Tai in this movie, was found unconscious and died of cardiac arrest, I could not believe it. She was only 32 years old- so tragic.

There is a lot of speculation surrounding her death- she has been plagued with rumors of drug use, as well as an eating disorder. At this point, it is all speculation, but what is clear is that the most recent pictures published of her show her looking extremely emaciated. I was not planning on blogging about her, but I have had quite a few conversations about her death in the last two days with my clients that have really been making me think. A lot of the girls and women that I work with have eating disorders, and Brittany Murphy's death has possibly serious implications for those with anorexia, and eating disorders. As I mentioned before, no one really knows what caused her death. But what statistics tell us is that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), females between the ages of 15 and 24 who suffer from anorexia nervosa experience a death rate that is 12 times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death. Just to be clear, this statistic only applies to those suffering with anorexia-- this does not mean that the leading cause of death among females who are between 15 and 24 is anorexia.

This week as I have heard clients question and ponder what ultimately killed Brittany Murphy (investigators said it was 'natural causes' but what is natural about dying at 32?), I have been struck by something else. Regardless of which self-destructive behavior (eating disorder, drugs, etc) may have contributed to her death, I think there is an important lesson that can be learned from this whole situation. It appears that Brittany's friends and fellow actors were not as shocked to hear about her death as the rest of us- apparently, she had been exhibiting erratic behavior as of late, and they were all very concerned about her shrinking frame. I think her death is a wake-up call. No matter what ultimately caused her death, her tragic exit from this world demonstrates that we are fragile. So many people with eating disorders think that they are immune from the dire health consequences that result from eating disorders, especially death; likewise, often those with drug dependencies and addictions often think that nothing bad will happen to them as a result of their drug use, including death. But death can happen and it does happen. And it is so important to take mental illness and self-destructive behaviors seriously! If you know someone who is practicing self-destructive habits, or is engaging in harmful behaviors, or you yourself are engaging in these behaviors, please seek help. This is such a serious issue. Hopefully Brittany Murphy's death will not be in vain- and will serve as a warning for others who are walking this fine line of danger.

If you or someone that you know is interested in finding out about receiving help to deal with an eating disorder, follow this link. To find out more about receiving help for a drug related issue, click here.

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