By Bella Kemp
Why this matters to me
Unfortunately, during my time in high school, I have seen the damaging effect of anorexia nervosa. It can occur at a time when teenagers are most vulnerable, and it takes over your whole life. Exercising one more day a week, cutting back 100 calories in one day, and other restrictive behaviors can lead to a lifestyle of self deprecation and a feeling of loss of control. My Catalyst Conference is dedicated to all those who have struggled or are struggling with any eating disorder. You are loved, you are strong, you are enough.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, around 20 million women will suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life. Unfortunately, this issue can attack when the brain is at its most vulnerable point of development: puberty. Whether it the disorder stems from a belonging to fit in, if insecurity about body image arises, or if a teenage girl is biologically predisposed to anorexia nervosa, this eating disorder is becoming more and more prevalent in teenage girls. It is also the most deadly, from women ages 15-24, the mortality rate from anorexia is 12 times higher in this age group than all other causes of death. How do we stop this disease from becoming more widespread than it already is? After researching this topic in depth, I have come to the conclusion that diminishing anorexia nervosa in teenage girls depends on how schools educate their students on not just eating disorders, but mental health, and increasing empathy and awareness within their students and faculty. Children spend an average of 1,000 waking hours in school per year (excluding after school events, home work, etc). This is where they could exhibit unhealthy eating or mental habits, and its our job to educate teachers and students on how to spot these tendencies and get help for the student.
Call To Action
Mental Health Literacy: How do we help students more aware of their surroundings and their peers in a helpful and kind manner? I would like to launch a mental health literacy program at my school. It would be a safe space for all, with no judgement, fostered by a deep caring for students and their struggles. Mental Health Literacy could be added as an elective or a club, and although it wouldn’t be forced upon, it could be strongly encouraged. I’d like to connect students with mental, health professionals, counselors at the school, and other people who have experienced what it is like to feel alone, depressed, or anxious. Because once we take away the “taboo-ness” and the stigma of mental illness, hopefully students will realize that it is a facet of life, it is okay to not always be okay, but it isn’t okay to go through mental health issues alone. Hopefully, I would like to include teachers in the program as well, and have them undergo training for the program. The more administration and students who participate, the more people will follow their lead.
Empathy: I think that through this mental health campaign, I would like to also cultivate empathy within the students. My GOA course has really highlighted the differences between sympathy and empathy, and I’d like to include this in the program. How do we make people feel less alone as they go through self-discovery or struggles if we haven’t experienced them ourselves? The key is to be open, honest, and loving. While those are three things that may be hard to teach, they are life skills that will help them in the future. Empathy and education will help students be able to observe unhealthy tendencies within their friends, and hopefully be comfortable enough with their newfound education to find their friend help.
Places to find support/learn about what you can do to help a loved one: http://www.worldeatingdisordersday.org/about/nine-goals/ —
National Eating Disorder Association Hotline- 1-800-931-2237
Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Hotline- 1-630-577-1130
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- 1-800-273-8255
“Anorexia Facts & Statistics.” Anorexia Facts & Anorexia Nervosa Statistics | Eating Recovery Center, www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/conditions/anorexia/facts-statistics.
“Anorexia Nervosa.” National Eating Disorders Association, 28 Feb. 2018, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia.
Monroe, Jamison. “Teen Eating Disorders: Causes, Effects, and Statistics.” Newport Academy, Newport Academy, 25 Mar. 2019, www.newportacademy.com/resources/mental-health/scary-truth-teen-eating-disorders/.
Vimeo, 16 Apr. 2019, vimeo.com/156167321.