“An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that changes people’s relationship with food in a negative way”, writes Kathryn, Young Ambassador for Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorders charity.
“It has a negative impact on both their mental and physical health. Over 1.1 million people are directly affected by eating disorders in the UK and girls between the ages of 15-24 are most at risk.
“Someone suffering from an eating disorder may be feeling very isolated, lonely and vulnerable. The sufferer may be withdrawn, scared, anxious and tired. They often feel like they are alone and have no friends or anyone to talk to.
“School can be difficult for young people at the best of times, let alone for someone who is suffering from an eating disorder. Friendships are often difficult when you are suffering from an eating disorder as you may feel left out, not good enough, like you don’t fit in and that people are talking about you behind your back. Pressures of doing well at school can get overwhelming as you are unable to concentrate and preform your best in class. Tiredness may prevent you from doing your homework, revising and doing well in tests. Partaking in activities such as P.E at school comes with its challenges for someone suffering with an eating disorder too. It may be changing in front of peers that you are uncomfortable with or you may not be able to take part at all because of a doctor’s orders. This may bring about awkward questions, feeling jealous of the people doing P.E, feeling left out or not getting picked, as you don’t have the energy to put the effort in.
“Schools can do lots to help eating disorder sufferers, but before they can do this they must be informed of the situation. Your pastoral care teacher is probably the best person to go to first, don’t worry they are likely to have come across a similar situation before. Tell them what’s going on, how you are felling and what help you are receiving at school. They can then support you in the best way they possibly can. Having somewhere else to go during P.E, sending a note round your teachers telling them you are not feeling great at the moment, delaying tests if you aren’t up for them, asking for somewhere to eat your lunch that’s not the busy canteen, and for someone to come in and support you so you are not alone, even just having someone you can talk to. These are all simple things that the school can do to help and they can make a big difference.
“There are lots of places for young people experiencing an eating disorder to get help. Talking to a parent, teacher or friend is a good place to start. Go and talk to your local G.P, they can refer you to your local CAMHS team where there will be professional psychologists, psychiatrists, dieticians and therapist who are trained to help people suffering from eating disorders.
“You can also find a lot of information, resources and support on the Beat website, or by phoning the Youthline on 0845 634 7650. Parents, teachers or any concerned adults over the age of 25 should call the Helpline for adults on 0845 634 1414.
“I have a personal experience of an eating disorder myself along with being bullied and having a hard time at school. Now, as a Beat Young Ambassador, my advice to anyone with an eating disorder who is having a hard time is the very thing I didn’t do. Tell someone! If no one knows they can’t help. As the old saying goes “a problem shared is a problem halved” and it is so true! Remember you are not alone. There are so many other young people out there in the same situation as you and lots of people around you that can help. Recovery is possible and things do get better.”