Youngsters turning to Childline with eating disorders and body image issues
New data has revealed a startling amount of youngsters contacting Childline with eating disorders and body image issues.
The service, run by the NSPCC, saw 40 per cent of all sessions delivered between June and September last year provided to young people struggling the conditions.
Across the whole year – April 2022 to March 2023 – Childline delivered 4,179 counselling sessions, including 191 in Wales, to children struggling with these issues.
1656 (40%) of those counselling sessions based on these topics took place from June to September, the lead up to and the duration of the six-week summer break.
Eating disorders and body image issues were the 8th most common concern for children contacting Childline in 2022/23.
Common themes that came out of Childline counselling sessions on body image and eating disorders include:
- Comparisons to friends, siblings, and people on social media
- Guilt around eating particular “bad” foods or guilt about eating at all
- Negative comments from family, friends, bullies, and partners about their weight and body often contributes to body image concerns
- Weight worries linked to lockdown, gaining weight due to lockdown inactivity or stress
- Not knowing how to manage weight or fitness without going to extremes
- Cancelling plans due to body image issues
A boy, 16, from Wales who reached out to Childline said; “I was in the changing rooms recently and the rest of the class started making fun of my weight.
“I am fed up with being fat. I’ve been trying to do sport to get fitter, but it’s making me sadder with all the negative comments I’m getting.”
A 15-year-old from Wales told the service: “I wish my dad would stop making jokes about my weight.
“I tried to tell him it’s not funny and really bothering me, but he won’t stop.
“I get anxious to even eat around him now in case he makes a comment.”
In the run up to this year’s summer holiday, Childline knows that many children might be struggling to cope with these issues and wants to remind them that their trained counsellors and online services are here to support them.
For some, the prospect of wearing clothing which shows their body more can make them feel under pressure to look a certain way, that they need to lose weight or change their appearance.
For others, this pressure is also reinforced as many will be spending more time online during the summer months to keep in touch with their friends and to stay entertained.
Additionally, children who struggle with eating disorders might find a change in their day-to-day routine and eating habits over the summer period difficult to cope with.
Kieran Lyons, Service Head of Childline said: “Every year our trained counsellors speak to hundreds of children in the run up to and during the summer holidays who are struggling with their body image or eating disorders.
“Summer can be a really a tough time for anyone who is already dealing with these issues, and it also can be a time which can make others who ordinarily felt happy with their body image begin to feel negatively.
“Regardless of your situation or your worries, Childline is here to ensure that no child is left to cope alone with any worry they have.
“If you are struggling with your body image or an eating disorder, we want you to know that Childline is here to help, and we can support you on what you can do and how to make things feel better.”
If there is a young person in your life struggling with their body image or an eating disorder here are some tips on how best to support them
- Remind them that how they look is part of who they are and that their personality, achievements and the way they behave is important too.
- Images they may see on TV, in magazines, in social media or online are often altered and airbrushed so what they are seeing isn’t always real.
- Remind them that everyone is different and not to compare themselves to anyone else. Accepting themselves is all about them noticing things they are happy and unhappy about and realise that is what makes them unique.
- To help build their confidence encourage them to spend time focusing on a hobby they enjoy.
- Also, it may help if they write down every morning a few things they like about themselves.
All children can speak to a trained counsellor over the phone on 0800 1111, via email or on a 121 chat on the Childline website.
Children can also visit the website to find more advice on any concerns or questions they may have on body image and eating disorders and they can also use the service’s monitored message boards to get support from their peers Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com