Eating disorders are not ‘normal’ dieting and body shape concerns; they are serious mental illnesses with damaging physical consequences. Early identification is an essential part of helping a sufferer to make a recovery and is supported by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence guidelines published by the government.
4 Facts in 4 areas
- Avoids eating at school.
- Takes a long time to eat.
- Brings or cooks food for others at school.
- Reduces application to school work or increases to the point of obsessiveness.
2. Physical Factors
- Has a major loss or gain of weight – this may be especially noticeable after a school holiday.
- Avoids physical activity or significantly increases physical activity.
- Complains of the cold frequently.
- Appears tired and listless.
3. Psychological changes
- Looks withdrawn and sad.
- Seems less able to concentrate.
- May be irritable.
- Over focus on certain themes, potentially around body matters, food or eating related matters (for example in Art or in English)
4. Social Factors
- Friends may present with concerns.
- Withdrawal from friendship groups may be noted.
- May become suddenly very socially confident due to reduced weight – often shown by excessive focus on appearance.
- May talk a lot about eating and weight related issues with friends.
What can schools do?
4 suggestions for change
- Education on eating disorders.
- A clear and effective system to support a student who presents with an eating disorder.
- CA named teacher and peer supporter from a core team of trained staff and students to be available should help be needed.
- Establish links with local services and know what the referral pathways are and also ensure that there is a risk management plan in place to keep the student physically safe at school.