Focus groups conducted in 29 UK schools found that school staff lack the knowledge, understanding and confidence to support students with eating disorders (Knightsmith et al., 2013). Following some of the key issues highlighted by school staff in this study, the aim of this article is to signpost to specialist charities and organisations offering further support in these areas.
Different types of eating disorders and warning signs
The UK’s eating disorder charity Beat estimates that around 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder and that around 25 per cent of those with an eating disorder are male (Beat, n.d.). There are several different types of eating disorder that are caused by a mixture of biological, psychological and social factors.
- Information from Beat on the different types of eating disorders and their signs, including anorexia nervosa, ARFID, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, orthorexia, OSFED, pica and rumination disorder.
- General risk factors and warning signs of eating disorders from Beat.
- Types of eating disorders, symptoms and causes from the Mental Health Foundation (n.d.).
Practical ideas for supporting students recovering from an eating disorder
- Information for schools formulating policies to support the recovery of students with eating disorders from the Australian eating disorder charity Butterfly.
- Information for schools on how to respond to eating disorders from the Australian National Eating Disorders Collaboration. This includes information about communicating with parents.
- Guidelines for school staff on disordered eating developed by the Child and Adolescent Eating Disorder Steering Group in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. This includes information on working with parents and school lunches.
- Information about social media and eating disorders from Beat.
The limit to the scope of teachers’ roles and responsibilities needs to be recognised. Teachers cannot be expected to take on the role of specialist mental health professionals. However, schools can put some strategies in place to support students and direct them to specialist charities and organisations for further support.