Eating disorders crisis: Children with ‘devastating’ illnesses targeted with new recovery coaching in schools
- Credit: Archant
Children at risk of illnesses such as anorexia are being targeted with new recovery coaching sessions at Suffolk schools amid fears of growing levels of eating disorders in the county.
With hospital admissions for the illness rising, statistics have revealed fewer than two in 10 urgent eating disorder cases in Ipswich and east Suffolk are being seen within a week.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) has said supporting young people with illnesses such as bulimia is a "top priority" - but campaigners have said it is "devastating" to see children wait longer they should for treatment.
Now Debbie Watson, who last year founded the charity Wednesday's Child to support sufferers after herself living with anorexia with 20 years, has now developed a "comprehensive protocol" to guide teachers and pupils about eating disorders.
Designed to guide staff and students about how to prevent eating disorders and how best to intervene with sufferers, the package includes full recovery coaching support for students showing early signs of illness.
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Ms Watson said it was "long overdue" in schools, with one in five children believed to experience an eating disorder during their academic life.
Research also shows illnesses are most likely to develop during adolesence.
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"We're proud to have been the organisation to have really listened to schools and to have developed a framework which can be tailored for their needs," Ms Watson added.
"On the one hand, teachers and pastoral staff were saying how desperate they were for more information and resources to assist understanding of this devastating illness.
"But perhaps even more so, they were eager to get 'hands-on' support wherever a child might be showing some kind of eating distress or disordered thoughts.
"We are now able to offer a really strong mix of one-to-one, group and workshop-based delivery, calling upon an exceptional team of Wednesday's Child specialists who come from backgrounds in teaching, young people's behavioural needs, therapeutic solutions, nutrition and food psychology, and mental health provision."
Framlingham College is one school using the Wednesday's Child team to educate staff, audit dining facilities and hold assemblies and parent talks.
The charity will also provide a one-to-one listening service and recovery techniques for children who may need it.
Tom Caston, deputy head (pastoral) at the school, said: "The wellbeing of a pupil is critical to them experiencing a happier and more successful school career.
"I really believe that the Wednesday's Child delivery model is essential for the entire academic community - from primary to higher education, and across mainstream and public schools."