A 12 year old from Virginia sought to change schools two months into her 7th grade year this year but school officials resisted until finally the youngster opened up to her mom about being picked on for her weight, namely developing earlier than most girls her age. By October, less than 30 days into school, the teen began to throw up her meals at home and school. The transfer to a different school in town was approved and the youngster will be going in to talk to a therapist and counselor on a periodic basis. The story is very common in schools today – several schools, including those in New York as a result of a state mandate, are now teaching about mental health. What is unclear is if these well-intentioned programs will help adolescents understand the implications of what they say and hear. ‘We teach the kids about their bodies in health class and are sensitive to this, but it’s very difficult to monitor and change the behavior of the kids,’ says Francis O’Rourke, a health teacher in New Jersey. Personally, I think these disorders start well before the actual act…they start online, on instagram, and they spiral like a tornado sometimes because mom and dad aren’t as engaged with their kid as they should be.’ Eventually the kid chooses whatever behavior they think they need to cope and manage through the crisis. Usually, these conditions go on unnoticed for several months or even years.
School-based programs often focus on stopping kids from being overweight; these are well intended, but research suggests they can be harmful to students. Weighing students in school, calculating and reporting body mass index (BMI), and encouraging students to focus on weight loss may contribute to shame, distress, or elevated risk for eating disorder behavior, according to research from Mirror Mirror, a non profit.