This week is about raising awareness of eating disorders, helping those who may be experiencing one, educating everyone and together help beat eating disorders. From looking back at my past with anorexia and by what I have learnt about mental health as a whole, prevention is key. I believe that with education we will be able to see a difference in the scarily increasing numbers of young people with eating disorders.
I could have made this post about how far I have come, what I have found helpful or even a before and after photograph but I am so very passionate about supporting what I believe can make a difference, starting from the beginning. I know I am only speaking from my own personal experience but if I had been taught about mental health when I was young there is no doubt in my mind I would have sought help and the illness would not have become so aggressive.
Speaking openly about mental health, learning what thoughts, feelings and behaviours are symptoms of a mental illness will give children the ability to control a problem, seek help, advice and support before it is too late. Not only will this help with the prevention but it will also reduce the stigma around mental health for generations to come.
The pressure on young people is higher than ever before and I can’t help but see this as a reason behind why more and more young people are experiencing mental illnesses. As children we are taught the importance of what lumps and bumps to look for but when it comes to talking about feelings and thoughts, it is often overlooked.
With eating disorders in particular children are bombarded with ‘too much sugar, too much fat, good foods, bad foods, skinny drinks, miracle slimming tablets’, magazines at child’s height with ‘X lost Y stone and looks better than ever before’, YouTube videos with ‘what I ate in a day’ and airbrushed photographs.
Children need to be educated on healthy balanced eating, all things in moderation and the ability to listen to your own body and own needs. Children should be taught about self-acceptance, positive body image, mindfulness and how to treat yourself with love, care and respect.
You would hope and some may even assume that parents teach this but in today’s society, who knows? When a child sees a parent stepping on the scales or buying slimmer’s bread, how does that make them feel? Do they understand or are they lead to believe it’s a persons destiny to obsess over weight loss and body appearance?
I didn’t intend on this turning into a ramble and I do apologise for my slight ranting. If this post can do one thing please let it encourage you to see how simple things can affect young minds today. Let it show that speaking about mental health with a child or young person does not need to be difficult and that it will make a positive difference to their health and wellbeing.
Here are some great ways of educating children about eating disorders, mental health illnesses and therapies to:
‘Sitting Still Like a Frog’ by Eline Snel, Although I have only read reviews and articles about this book and audio CD I think it is a truly wonderful way of engaging children aged 5-12 in mindfulness practices. Mindfulness has been proven to help people of all ages deal with anxiety, improve concentration and handle emotions, which may be difficult.
‘How Are You Feeling Today?’ by Molly Potter, This book looks like a great way to introduce young children to feelings. I am by no means a child expert however I am sure that learning about feelings, how to express them and speak openly about them is pretty important. This seems like a first step towards speaking openly about mental health and the book is adorable to.
‘Ana’ by Lilac Sheer, I was recently contacted by Lilac, a singer song writer wishing to raise awareness and bring forward the subject of eating disorders to young people. Using animation and music Lilac has created a wonderful video to help do this. The video is relatable, moving and doesn’t sugar coat the affects of eating disorders. Perhaps suitable for elder children rather than young children but a great way to give an insight and create a little understanding.
Disney’s ‘Inside Out’, this film is a very clever and beautifully written way of introducing children to emotions, feelings and thoughts. Both old and young including myself have found this film beneficial in feeling more self-aware. It’s easy to follow and relatable for all, I can’t recommend this film enough.
These are just four of the many ways that we can begin to educate young people about mental health. There are plenty more books, films and videos that will help children develop an understanding, giving them the ability to build resilience and protect themselves from such illnesses. This week I will be writing a couple of posts in the hope to raise more awareness of eating disorders, I hope you find them helpful in some way.