High school-age students are especially vulnerable to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating, but what high school resources are available to help keep them from developing an eating disorder?
One survey found that “1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys reported at least 1 disordered eating or weight control symptom serious enough to warrant further evaluation by a health professional .”
Despite this, high schools do not often have the same education, resources, and outreach related to eating disorders as colleges do.
Most colleges provide therapy, support groups, and education on disordered eating.
But, in many high schools, the luxury of having certified counselors isn’t always a given.
Not only that, high school students often don’t discuss their struggles with body image, self-worth, or food, partly to maintain an image and partly because of the secrecy inherent in these disorders.
This can present a real challenge for loved ones of high school students struggling with disorder eating, and certainly for the high school student themselves.
High School Resources
Reach Out to Your School Counselor
Many believe that school counselors focus mainly on scheduling, but, most of them are educated in counseling and supporting students through challenges.
Whether they are trained specifically in eating disorders or not, it is their job to know both school and local resources that are available to you.
Not only that, many schools now have in-house therapists that either work for the school or an outside organization but are trained therapists specifically there for students that need mental health support.
Use the Internet
The internet can have a lot of drawbacks, especially for vulnerable and impressionable teenagers.
However, when used properly, it can also be an incredible place for resources, information, and support.
Websites such as the one you’re on now, Eating Disorder Hope, or the National Eating Disorders Association are easy to use and provide articles, blogs, and resources pages with information for you and your loved ones.
These sites can teach you more about eating disorders, eating disorder treatment, and both online and in-person resources such as treatment centers or support groups based on location.
Confide in a Trusted Person
As mentioned above, eating disorders are often secret by nature. However, what exists in the dark can grow stronger in its power over you and your life.
It is important that you reach out to someone that you trust to talk about what you are going through.
This does not have to be a family member, as for many, family may be triggering to their disorder, or, simply unsupportive.
Consider talking about your struggle with a trusted teacher, school counselor, coach, family member, family friend, or friend.
They may not have resources or solutions for you, but, unconditional love and support can make a huge difference in one’s life.
Be the Change
If you are school staff or a loved one and recognize these resources are lacking for high school students in your area, speak up.
A national survey found that having eating disorder screening for high school students could be hugely beneficial, stating that, “for many of these adolescents, beginning treatment during high school or earlier would improve treatment effectiveness and mitigate acute and chronic complications of disordered eating and weight control behaviors, such as impaired growth and digestive functioning, osteoporosis, and obesity .”
Don’t be afraid to demand more resources and support for those battling eating disorders in your area.
References: Austin, S. B. et al. (2008). Screening high school students for eating disorders: results of a national initiative. Preventing Chronic Disease, 5:4.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published September 13, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on September 13, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC