BOOSTING BODY POSITIVITY
Q. What is your background with the Butterfly Foundation? Q. What will school leaders and teachers get out of your talk? Q. How can these strategies tie in with the curriculum? Q. Do you have any advice to teachers who notice negative body image behaviour
The national not-for-profit Butterfly Foundation represents all people affected by eating disorders and negative body image. Manager of Education Services Danni Rowlands will be speaking at the National Education Summit about ways educators can help their students address body image issues. Q. What is your background with the Butterfly Foundation?
I’ve been at the Butterfly Foundation for 11 years and as I have a lived experience, my area of interest is prevention and building the resilience and protective factors in children and adolescents.
I’ve been working to develop our whole community program and school based workshop sessions that provide support to young people directly, to professionals – be it educators and wellbeing teams – and also parental support.
We provide consistent and relevant information so people feel better informed and understand what they can do to improve the body image in young people and also improve healthy eating and exercise behaviour.
Q. What will school leaders and teachers get out of your talk?
Body image is a really complex issue and I think a lot of people trivialize it, thinking it’s just about vanity. However, the reality of what negative body image is, and the impact that it’s having on young people is quite profound.
Schools are seeing first-hand the consequences of students with negative body image who are disengaging from classroom discussions, not putting their hand up because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves, appearance based-bullying, young people who are disengaging from sport, and even [the advent of] diet clubs or competitive dieting behaviour among friendship groups.
The aim of the session I’m delivering will be a snapshot of what negative body image is and why is it something that we need to combat, as well as discussing what schools can do to positively support the healthy development of body image, eating, and exercise behaviour.
Q. How can these strategies tie in with the curriculum?
We know firsthand that schools are overloaded – we see the issues and problems that young people are facing and many teachers are concerned about how to support students.
They’re trained in being educators; they’re not trained to be counsellors or wellbeing coordinators.
From our perspective it’s very much about providing practical strategies that can be implemented within the school culture. For example, the strategies align with school values, bullying, and teasing policies to take into account the statistics that 70 per cent of bullying in schools is appearance-based.
We’re trying to help teachers in the classroom to be aware of the language that they use, be aware of what positive role modelling looks like, and how can they access curriculum that they can easily insert into what they’re already doing.
Q. Do you have any advice to teachers who notice negative body image behaviour in students?
We encourage people to call the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline (it’s free, confidential and has lots of resources) so teachers can have a conversation around what they’re noticing and what they’re seeing.
Often teachers notice behavioral changes in the classroom; the student engaging or not engaging, withdrawing, or friends might come to the teacher to say they’re concerned about somebody.
There are mental health first aid guidelines for eating disorders which provide extensive information on what to do if you’re concerned, and early intervention strategies. But obviously teachers need to contact their wellbeing team, talk to the principal, and if it’s a primary school aged child talk to the parents.
Teachers can call the helpline to talk about any concerns they have, discuss strategies on how to have a positive conversation to the person or their family, and help to ensure that the person can get the treatment and support that they need.
Q. How can schools navigate the negative body image trends on social media?
It’s about empowering young people so they’re aware of how they’re feeling when they’re using social media – being aware of images, profiles, pages, or people that are triggering them into feeling not great about themselves of their body.
I will be covering these strategies in my session but it’s important to ensure young people are following people or pages that make them feel good.
If someone feels triggered they will compare themselves, and unfortunately it plays out in their behaviour. They may be over exercising, or patterns of behaviour with their food and the way that they dress may change.
We encourage teachers to help students be self-aware and empower themselves – blocking people that don’t make them feel good or unfollowing pages and ensuring that there’s diversity in their feed. What’s shown on social media is a highlight reel, not the real deal.
Danni Rowlands is speaking about Strategies to Develop Body Confident Young People at the National Education Summit on Saturday the 1st of September at 9:15am.
Butterfly’s National Helpline ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) is Australia’s national eating disorders support service and is open 8am to 12am AEST, 7 days a week (except national public holidays).
“What’s shown on social media is a highlight reel, not the real deal.”
Educators concerned about body image or eating disorders in their students are encouraged to call the Butterfly Foundation’s National Hotline on 1800 33 4673.