Eating disorders are quite secretive and private illness. This leads to an average delay from illness development to start treatment of three years. Early intervention is key in helping young people to recover quickly and to stay well. Education providers may be among the first people to notice the early signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. This may look like skipping lunch, decreasing concentration, or worsening grades and appearing tired, pale or withdrawn. It is important to remember that while low weight or weight loss may be a symptom of an eating disorder not all people with an eating disorder will be at a low weight or experience weight loss.
Schools can be in an ideal position to notice these early signs and can signpost young people to seek support and treatment. Education providers may also be among the first people that young people may share their concerns with. Education providers can help support this by privately approaching young people if they notice the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. Stating their finding in a clear matter of fact way without judgements or assumptions. Not stating low weight or weight loss a sign or symptom as this may be triggering for the young person but instead keeping to the other symptoms they are noticing. Young people may not be ready to accept your help at that time so remaining non judgmental and keeping an open line of communication in the future is important.
Education providers can also support those in recovery by allowing students to sit out PE or exercise classes until their physical health improves and providing support and supervision to facilitate the young person to eat their lunch while at education.