Author Marya Hornbacher speaks to inspire action at Appalachian

Alexander McCall

The Appalachian State University Counseling Center and the High Country chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness welcomed Marya Hornbacher, award-winning journalist and bestselling author, to the university Monday night.

A sufferer of several mental ailments, including an eating disorder that hospitalized her at 52 pounds, Hornbacher has written five books reflecting on mental illness, the first of which was published when she was 23 years old. The book, titled “Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia,” has been translated into 16 languages and read by people around the world. 

“She has been there,” said Laura Anne Middlesteadt, board member of National Alliance on Mental Illness and program associate for Reich College of Education. “She’s been in the trenches with mental illness, and yet she’s accomplished so much.”

Hornbacher’s presence at Appalachian was intended to be an opportunity to bring hope and awareness to students who may be suffering or know someone who is suffering from a mental disorder.

“The college age, 18 to early 20s, is really ground zero for mental illness beginning to manifest,” said Middlesteadt. 

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, one in five Americans experiences mental illness at any given year. 

Hornbacher underlined this statistic during her talk and pointed out the need for this demographic to stand up and speak out for better recognition and treatment.

“[The U.S. Constitution states] all men are created equal, but do we believe that about people who are mentally ill?” she asked the audience. 

Hornbacher touched on the recent attention mental illness has received in the media connected with violence.

Just because the shooter at the Navy Yard last month was mentally ill doesn’t mean that all people with mental disorders are violent, she explained. 

Hornbacher spoke about the need for more government funds to go into research for mental illnesses, and that the only way to make that happen is for victims to take action. 

“Healing starts here,” Hornbacher said in closing. 

Sufferers find inspiration in Hornbacher’s stories, but they also find hope by seeing how someone with a mental illness still has the capability to be successful and follow her dreams. 

Sarah Cooke, a board member at NAMI who introduced Hornbacher to the stage, was one of the many people who were strongly affected by Marya Hornbacher’s writing. 

“She’s been a huge inspiration since I stumbled across her book when I was 18,” Cooke said.