Make Eating Disorder Education Compulsory in Schools

Make Eating Disorder Education Compulsory in Schools

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Ria Taneja started this petition to Gavin Williamson (Secretary of State for Education) and

Hi! I'm Ria and I'm 15 years old. For the last 5 years, I have struggled with mental health issues. Not having much mental health education in schools (particularly eating disorders) has made my journey a lot more difficult and lonelier. I believe that if there was more of an emphasis on eating disorder awareness, it would have aided my recovery earlier on - that’s why I’m calling for eating disorder awareness to be taught in schools.

Eating disorders affect an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK and many studies have shown that they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (‘Mortality Rates in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa and Other Eating Disorders: a Meta-Analyses of 36 Studies’, 2011). The mortality rate is 12 times higher than that seen in people without eating disorders. They carry an increased risk for both suicide and medical complications. A sufferer can appear to be healthy but can actually be extremely ill. 

With many eating disorders developing in adolescence and sufferers often hiding their thoughts and behaviours from others, I believe that it is so important for schools to raise awareness of these dangerous illnesses.

So, what are eating disorders? They are a way of coping, through having an unhealthy relationship with food, either eating too much, too little, or purging. They are a lot more prevalent than you would think, NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) states that a child is 242 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than they are to have type 2 diabetes. This is why raising awareness in schools now is more important than ever.

Having suffered with anorexia nervosa for over 2 years, I believe educating students on the reality of eating disorders and demystifying damaging perceptions can have a powerful impact. Firstly, it can encourage more compassion in students and help them spot early warning signs in their friends and can break down the misconception that eating disorders only affect vain, teenage girls.

Schools can help raise awareness in schools in the following ways:

  • Health and well-being lessons could include challenging misconceptions and discussing signs, symptoms, risk factors and how to get support.
  • Community Eating Disorders Service teams could visit schools during Eating Disorder Awareness Week with a talk to help students understand these often misunderstood mental illnesses. 
  • A talk by someone who is in recovery or who has recovered. Personal stories can have a lasting impact on others. 
  • Focusing on nutrition in schools can foster abnormal attitudes towards necessary nutrients. Schools should focus more on mental health and well-being and less on 'healthy eating' to try to help students develop a positive body image. 

This can even extend beyond just education about eating disorders. There are numerous taboo and misunderstood issues that need to be openly discussed in schools. I know that if topics such as self-harm were talked more about, it would make me and many others feel less alone and more able to talk about our own experiences and struggles, whether that be to teachers or peers. Please sign my petition to help raise awareness about eating disorders among young people in schools across the country.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 25,000!
At 25,000 signatures, this petition becomes one of the top signed on Change.org!