By Maeonne Phillips
When it comes to dealing with body image insecurities and issues, most students do not think of talking to a guidance counselor as an option. Students do not feel comfortable talking to an adult about something so personal, but keeping the issues to themselves can make the problems worse.
Guidance counselor, Sally Dean often has students look to her for help with not only insecurities, but also with relationship issues, anxiety and depression.
“In the counseling office we are mostly here to listen, and students can come and speak confidentially about any concerns. When it becomes a safety issue then certainly we have to address it with parents or whoever needs to be involved to make sure that student is safe,” said Dean.
In the case of something serious such as an eating disorder, Dean said they recommend the student be evaluated by a doctor and look into some helpful resources outside of school.
School nurse Janet Dix described what happens in a serious situation such as in the case of Anorexia.
“Usually we have them set up with Akron Children’s hospital and then I try and work out something with the parents where the student will eat their lunch here [in the nurse’s office] and then I’ll sign something stating that the student ate all their food,” said Dix.
Eating disorders can be very serious and lead to major health risks if not treated. These cases in which the student is supervised, can be developed through the attention of the nurse or other teachers. Sometimes lunch monitors will even seek out help for the student if it is recognized the student rarely or never eats lunch.
The guidance counselors see other students seek out help for their friends as well.
“I think that is a great thing about Stow, is that we really have a culture here where students take care of each other and that they know if there is a serious concern that they need to find a trusted adult [to help with the issue] or come to the counseling office to seek help for a friend,” said Dean, “And they can even do that anonymously if they are concerned about a friend but they are not wanting their friend to know they said anything.”
Then, one of the counselors will try talking to that person and let them know someone is concerned. Sometimes the nurse can get involved as well, checking to see if they are okay physically and may possibly call home about medical concerns if the situation seems serious.
Dix’s best advice towards students who suffer from anxiety, depression or body image insecurities would be to “definitely seek some counselling. Because they perceive themselves that way does not mean that is actually that. Sometimes just some counseling and just talking about some of the issues, sometimes there is more deeper initiatives than what they think. It helps a lot.”
“I think the media and social media contribute to [students developing body image insecurities.] I know that there are people out there that will ridicule someone because of their size, if they are too short, too fat, too tall, too skinny. And they will make comments about that, that are not necessary,” said Dean, “[Those issues are] one of the reasons why I try to be involved with bullying prevention at the high school too.”
Students with body image insecurities can be increasingly hard on themselves and even turn to more drastic measures in order to fix what they think needs to be changed about their body. Anxiety and depression can add to these harsh thoughts making the situation even more dangerous and life threatening.
“Listen to the negative words that you say to yourself. If you wouldn’t talk to your best friend that way, why would you say those things to yourself,” said Dean, “If you wouldn’t be that critical to someone else, I would hope that you would also realize that your worth is not dependent on your body image and that if you can start to treat your self a little bit better and think about yourself a little more positively, that is a good start.”
Developing these anxiety, depression, and other insecurities or disorders can be far more serious than what people make them out to be. The student suffering may not realize how effective coming forward and asking for help can be. It sounds like the worst possible option, but in reality it is the best option there is. The victim can not always get through their struggles on their own.
These situations and views on body image are very common in teens. The guidance counselors, nurse and other staff members are meant to help students and asking for their help should never be feared.
“I hope that the students who read this are encouraged to seek help for themselves or for a friend if they know someone who is really struggling with it. It certainly can get better if they are willing to come forward,” said Dean.
For more information on eating disorders, you can visit the National Eating Disorders Association website. They even have a hotline (1-800-931-2237) available Monday-Thursday from 9 am to 9 pm and Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. The association is also separately online and on Twitter, tumblr and Instagram as “Proud2BMe” just for teens and young adults.
Local treatment centers include “New Beginnings Eating Disorders Center, LLC”, located in Akron at 3610 West Market Suite 102 and The Emily Program, a bigger treatment association in Cleveland. The Cleveland center’s admission office number is 888-364-5977.