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Eating Disorders Health


perfection


tackling it head on, writes Thea Jourdan. London, off ers some advice to parents


Her recovery happened as her self- esteem issues were addressed and she was taught a range of coping mechanisms to help her deal with her perfectionism. All schools need to be aware


of the problem, but boarding schools, which have to stand in loco parentis, have perhaps a greater responsibility to oversee and deal with any incipient mental health problems, including eating disorders. Often, teachers or friends notice the tell-tale signs before absent parents. Kathy Compton is nurse advisor


People with eating


to the Boarding Schools’ Association, with 170 member schools and makes recommendations on school policy and training staff . “We advise schools to develop a mental health policy which includes what to do if a child has a suspected eating disorder.” Ideally, a boarding school


disorders, male and female, tend to be perfectionists and black-and-white thinkers


and anorexia is a way for them to feel in control of their lives. If they are diagnosed with AN it is vital they seek professional support. Research shows that people


diagnosed with AN under the age of 21 do better with family based therapies, when the whole family may be involved. Over that age, it seems to be best if the individual has treatment like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.” It’s important that the person


receives lots of help and support to build their self esteem which has become disproportionately dependent on their ability to control


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their weight and shape. There is no right answer to whether it is best to remove the young person from school or university. It depends on the resources available to cope with the condition at home. Every case is diff erent. Tara was a


perfectionist who found failure hard to cope with and was worried about upcoming GCSEs. Reducing her food intake and micro-managing her weight gave her back a sense of control.


should have its own medical centre and trained nurse. “Matrons have an important role to play and because they tend to live in, they


are the fi rst line of defence, but they are not medically qualifi ed,” says Compton. Schools that encourage


peer groups to talk and share experiences are more likely to head problems off at the pass.


“Anorexia is a disease of secrecy – getting young people together


can really help break this code of silence,” says Compton, who runs a


course for school nurses at


Roehampton University. Parents should be involved,


despite concerns about confi dentiality. “It is a mental health issue and arguable


✏ Autumn 2011 FirstEleven 57


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