Let's Get Real About Anorexia, The Deadliest Mental Illness: A Tribute to Karen Carpenter
This is the first piece of a three-part series acknowledging the serious nature of eating disorders and how little was known about helping people with eating disorders in the past.
Today’s blog shares hope. A young woman celebrates the musical contributions of the Carpenters to raise awareness of how serious eating disorders are.
Karen Carpenter passed away at age 32 on February 4, 1983. The cause of death was heart failure — reportedly due to her struggle with anorexia nervosa.
Karen Carpenter, like many who have struggled with eating disorders, died far too soon.
Karen’s silky, velvety voice had captured millions around the world. But as time went on, people began to worry that something was wrong.
Sadly, not only did Karen’s friends and family not know how to help her at the time, healthcare professionals didn’t know how to help her either.
In the early 1980s, we did not understand eating disorders. We did not have effective treatments for anorexia and other eating disorders. Brilliant, talented, loving people — like Karen — were dying from illnesses that were extremely difficult to treat.
Today, things are different. We understand so much more about the causes and treatments of eating disorders. Eating disorder clinics around the country, including Eating Recovery Center, are helping individuals recover from eating disorders every day.
The stigma of what it means to have an eating disorder is far less than it was in the 1970s and 1980s. But, the stigma still exists. Few people understand why eating disorders develop — or how to get help for an eating disorder — which is why it’s so important to continue to talk about Karen Carpenter and her illness.
Paying tribute to a life gone far too soon
Mount St. Joseph University senior and voice major Maria Bruce has decided to take action. She has organized a Carpenters Anniversary/Tribute Concert to be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 25, 2018.
Maria hopes that the concert will both pay tribute to Karen Carpenter and raise awareness of how eating disorders are still taking lives every day.
We talked to Ms. Bruce about the tribute concert and this is what she shared with us.
“I’m a double major in both psychology and music. Putting on this concert combines both of my biggest passions.
As a psych major, I learned about eating disorders in one of my classes. I was so shocked to hear that eating disorders are the least funded mental illness — even though eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness.
It seems so unfair that it’s such a struggle to get financial funding or assistance for eating disorder treatment. I know people that are able to get assistance to pay for cancer treatment and other physical illnesses. I wanted to find a way to raise money to help people who are struggling.
I have had friends who have struggled with eating disorders — both in high school and in college. They are often not open about their struggles. At times, people don’t even know that their family members are struggling.
When I realized I wanted to do something to help raise awareness for eating disorders, I talked to a psychologist here at the Mount who specializes in eating disorders. She told me about Eating Recovery Center and the Eating Recovery Foundation.
I had known about Karen Carpenter since I was a child. My parents played her music for me and I always loved her voice. In fact, she has really inspired me as a female vocalist. 2018 was both the 50th year anniversary of the Carpenters as a group — and it was the 35th anniversary of her death. I decided that I wanted to do something — like a charity event — to both raise awareness of eating disorders and pay tribute to Karen Carpenter.
I’ve received so much support for this tribute concert. Everyone in the music and psychology department has been amazing. Professional musicians and one professional vocalist have volunteered to perform, and everyone is doing this without receiving any compensation. I sent a letter to Richard Carpenter to tell him about the event and to invite him to attend. He actually emailed me back. Unfortunately, he couldn’t attend but he did tell me that he was so touched and impressed by this.
After graduation, I’d like to be a music therapist. I really would love to work with people with eating disorders, people with disabilities such as autism, the elderly, and possibly veterans, too.”
Raise awareness and support for eating disorders
Karen Carpenter may be the most well-known celebrity to die of an eating disorder in recent decades. Sadly, she will not be the last person with an eating disorder to die.
Help support Maria’s passion. You can join her in raising awareness of eating disorders by buying a ticket to the show.
Tickets for the Carpenters Anniversary/Tribute Concert can be bought online for $10 by clicking here and typing "Carpenters Tribute" in the search bar.
100 percent of the proceeds received from concert ticket sales will go to the Eating Recovery Foundation.
Today, unlike in the 1980s when Karen Carpenter passed away, help for eating disorders is now widely available. All people should be able to get the treatment they deserve and need. Let’s get the word out – eating disorders are real and eating disorders are deadly. Let’s help all people get access to treatment.
The Eating Recovery Foundation was established in 2012 as a 501(c)(3) with the following mission:
The Eating Recovery Foundation is a catalyst to change how eating disorders are viewed, treated and prevented. We provide education and prevention programs, support research, and provide resources for those afflicted with, or at risk for eating disorders, as well as their families, caregivers and treating professionals.
Since our inception we have positively impacted thousands of lives through our programs that raise levels of awareness, advance research and provide access to care for those in financial need.
Learn More About the History of Eating Disorder Treatment
Blog 1: Anorexia: The Deadliest Mental Illness
Blog 2: A Brief History of Eating Disorders
Blog 3: A Search for Effective Eating Disorder Treatment: How Far We’ve Come with Eating Recovery Center’s Dr. Emmett Bishop