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Professional Resources

Emerging Eating Concerns

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness (20% in the case of chronic anorexia nervosa). Early recognition and intervention for disordered eating can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of treatment. Allowing support to be provided before behaviours become entrenched.

For many young people eating disorders first emerge in the teenage years and those struggling with an eating disorder are often secretive about their problems.

School is often a place where the signs and symptoms are first noticed. Staff can act on concerns and help the young person access timely, appropriate care.

Young people may not fully understand the risks and impact on their health of disordered eating and are typically defended and denying of their problem. The causes of eating disorders are complex and varied but is invariably a part of a broader picture of a young person struggling with their emotional wellbeing and sense of self.

Young people face many pressures during the transition to adulthood in academic and social life as well as increasing pressure from social media to ‘look’ a certain way. Eating disorders can be a way they attempt to be ‘in control’ when they feel overwhelmed.

Dive Deeper

In School

‘Eating disorder’ is a broad term and includes better known illnesses such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. It also includes less well known conditions such as orthorexia– obsessively eating only from a very narrow range of foods considered to be healthy.

The National Eating Disorder Association have a detailed list of conditions and signs and symptoms. These can be used a guide if you are concerned about a child or young person.

Having a school culture of healthy approaches to diet and exercise is important. Students benefit from the opportunity to discuss and reflect on body image and the pressures of social media. Learning techniques to manage the stress of adolescence can help build resilience amongst pupils.

If You Have Concerns About a Child or Young Person

If you are concerned that a young person has an eating disorder it is important that you act.

  • Find a quiet time to talk to the student.
  • Tell them what you have noticed (tired /avoiding mealtimes/ baggy clothes etc.) ask them how you can help. You may have to revisit this if they initially deny anything is wrong .
  • Help them plan next steps– talking to parents / carers, seeing GP. 
  • If they are resistant to help and you are worried - discuss next steps with Designated Safeguarding Lead.

Ensure the child or young person has a named person they can talk to if needed. This should be someone they feel comfortable with.

If the young person has to take time out of school to recover - a plan of support when they return will be important too.

Resources

E-Learning

'All Our Health' offer free, bite-sized e-learning sessions - to improve the knowledge, confidence and skills of health and care professionals in preventing illness, protecting health and promoting wellbeing. The sessions cover some of the biggest issues in public health including;

  • Childhood obesity 
  • Pollution
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

They contain signposting to trusted sources of helpful evidence, guidance and support to help professionals embed prevention in their everyday practice.

Shelf Help - Reading Well

  • Can I tell you about Eating Disorders? - Bryan Lask & Lucy Watson

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