'Self Help' for eating disorders
Sunday, February 27, 2005
By Lisa Gentes, Daily News

NORTHBOROUGH, MA -- One Northborough company is helping local residents fight their battles against eating disorders and depression by arming them with tools and outlets on the Internet.

The Northborough-based www.MySelfHelp.com is offering free screenings and advice during National Eating Disorders Week, which runs from Feb. 28 through March 4.

"Eating disorders are becoming a huge problem throughout the U.S. and the world...and the national week is needed to bring awareness to the issue," said Caren Kenney, vice president of communications of MySelfHelp.com.

Nearly 10 million women and 1 million men have eating disorders in the U.S., according to MySelfHelp.com, and nearly 25 million have binge eating disorders.

The year-and-a-half-old company has developed online programs for people suffering with mental health problems, including depression, bulimia, binge eating, self-esteem, guilt, stress management, substance abuse, anxiety, insomnia, compulsive behaviors, grief, and a HIV program that is soon to be released.

The confidential Web programs are funded through grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, according to Kenney. The programs are free and available to users at www.MySelfHelp.com.

During National Eating Disorders week, those who feel they might have an eating disorder -- whether it be anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or obesity -- can stop by the company's office at 184 Otis St. for free, confidential screenings and information.

Kenney said oftentimes a stigma is attached to mental health disorders. Some people are embarrassed about it and afraid to talk about their problems with friends or family members, she said. The Web site offers confidentiality to those who might not otherwise seek help, she said.

MySelfHelp.com does not offer therapy or counseling, but would assist a client with finding an eating disorder or mental health specialist.

The company's online program works for patients in conjunction with their therapy, to help them between sessions, Kenney said.

"Our programs are available 24 hours a day," she said. "It's almost like an extension of their treatment."

The site also offers a Web log, online journal, moderated discussion board, calendar, reminder board and medication tracker. "It's a pretty comprehensive site," Kenney said, adding, "We try to keep it safe and supportive."

And users from across the world are logging onto the site. People from 23 countries are using the program, she said. "It's kind of exciting to see how far it's reaching."

"We're growing everyday," she said. Hundreds of users each month are signing into the site as members, and over 1,000 visitors check out the Web site each day, Kenney said.

Currently, users have been referred to the site by health care professionals, she said.

Richard Bedrosian, Ph.D., president of MySelfHelp.com, started working on his idea for the Web-based company in 1995, and in 2001 received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to initiate it. He closed his psychology practice in Northborough, which he had operated for 20 years, and focused on MySelfHelp.com.

"We're just trying to do what we can to raise awareness of eating disorders in the population," Bedrosian, also an affiliate in psychiatry at UMass Medical School, said of the involvement with the national awareness campaign.

"People need to know that it's not just confined to young women," he said, noting that older women and men can also suffer from eating disorders.

He said MySelfHelp.com also strives to "help people understand that there's effective treatment out there for them. I think that one of the most important services that we're trying to provide is support for people who aren't getting much treatment or need help between their sessions."

"We're trying to augment the treatment process, and we really encourage people to get into professional treatment," Bedrosian said.

He said he encourages people to use the self-help Web site as a support system, but not as as substitute for therapy.

For more information, go to www.MySelfHelp.com or call 508-393-5638.