A local NHS team will be visiting schools during Eating Disorders Awareness Week with a film and interactive treasure-hunts, hoping to help pupils and teachers learn more about these often-misunderstood mental health problems.
The Community Eating Disorders Service team, who cover North Cumbria, will be visiting schools to talk to students and answer questions during national Eating Disorders Awareness Week from 2 – 8 March. The service is run by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear (CNTW) NHS Foundation Trust, a leading provider of mental health and disability services in the North of England.
Clare Ellison, a Specialist Eating Disorders Dietitian and Lead for the Community Eating Disorders Service, said: “It’s essential that we are at the fore-front of raising young peoples’ awareness about mental health, and eating disorders are serious mental health problems – they’re not lifestyle choices, or fads.
“The young people who receive support from us have really shaped the activities we have planned for the week. They’ve helped us to understand how to reach the people who need our help the most.”
“We’re grateful to CNTW NHS Foundation Trust and the local schools for allowing us to do things a bit differently. It’s been fantastic meeting with such creative, intelligent and passionate young people – they have so much to offer.”
One pupil said: “I think that raising awareness of different eating disorders in schools is very important, as it can increase students’ understanding of how varied they can be. When we met with the Community Eating Disorders Service team, it felt like they were very attentive and took in everything we said. I am excited about how their Eating Disorders Awareness Week plans will hopefully get people in my school feeling that they can talk more freely about eating disorders.”
In some schools there are interactive assemblies and lessons planned, featuring a specially-created film which poses the question ‘why do we talk about food as though it’s a crime?’ The team will also be hosting ‘treasure hunts’ at several schools, aimed at increasing peoples’ understanding of eating disorders.
The team are also using the week to launch an Instagram account to share positive and hopeful messages for young people who are struggling with, or in recovery from, an eating disorder. You can follow them at @eatingdisorders_cumbria. Clare adds: “We’d really like to use this week to encourage everyone to start having more helpful conversations about eating disorders. We’ll be posting on Instagram throughout the week using the hashtag #EDtheConversation and we’d love to hear from you.”
The Community Eating Disorders Team hope that their activities this week will be the start of a longer-term project working with schools and providing preventative education about eating disorders.
If you feel that you, or a loved one, is suffering from an eating disorder please contact your GP. You can also call the BEAT charity’s eating disorders helpline on 0808 801 0677 between 12pm–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends, or email [email protected].