Aware, in­formed and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

Bac­calieu stu­dents build a safe and car­ing school

The Compass - - Trinity south - BY DENISE PIKE

“An eat­ing dis­or­der is a dis­ease, much like can­cer or di­a­betes is and it needs to be di­ag­nosed, treated and taken se­ri­ously,” Vince Withers told a group of stu­dents and teach­ers at Bac­calieu Col­le­giate in Old Per­li­can Nov. 18.

The chair­man of the Eat­ing Dis­or­der Foun­da­tion of New­found­land and Labrador, was mak­ing his first pre­sen­ta­tion on the topic in a school set­ting.

“ There are three pri­mary types of eat­ing dis­or­ders: anorexia ner­vosa, bu­limia and binge eat­ing dis­or­der (BED),” Withers pointed out. “Anorexia Ner­vosa is an in­tense and ir­ra­tional fear of body fat and weight gain even when no­tice­ably un­der­weight. In­di­vid­u­als see them­selves as fat, even when very thin, and refuse to main­tain a nor­mal weight.”

Ac­cord­ing to Withers, Bu­limia Ner­vosa is char­ac­ter­ized by binge eat­ing and purg­ing.

“A per­son con­sumes large amounts of food while feel­ing out of con­trol of their eat­ing. Then they use in­ap­pro­pri­ate ways to pre­vent weight gain such as vom­it­ing, lax­a­tives or fast­ing,” he ex­plained.

Peo­ple with binge eat­ing disor-

der (BED) binge, but do not use weight con­trol be­hav­iours.

“ They diet, feel hun­gry and then binge in re­sponse to that hunger,” he con­tin­ued. “ The per­son may also eat for emo­tional rea­sons, to com­fort them­selves or to avoid sit­u­a­tions. Feel­ings of shame and em­bar­rass­ment are prom­i­nent in BED.”


Withers’ pre­sen­ta­tion on eat­ing dis­or­ders was part of a num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties be­ing organized at Bac­calieu this year by the school’s AWARE group.

Su­per­vised and spear­headed by Guid­ance Coun­cil­lor Krys­tle Mercer, the group came to­gether a few months ago as a spin off from last year’s anti-bul­ly­ing ini­tia­tive.

Ac­cord­ing to Level 2 stu­dent and AWARE mem­ber Kyle White, the name of the group ba­si­cally tells what they are all about.

“Each let­ter stands for some­thing,” said White. “A is for ad­dress­ing prob­lems and is­sues; W means wit­ness­ing is­sues that are preva­lent in our school; A stands for at­tribut­ing to mak­ing a change; R means re­search­ing in­for­ma­tion on var­i­ous top­ics and E is for en­gag­ing in bring­ing about an aware­ness and mak­ing a change.”

Bring aware­ness

Some of the other top­ics the AWARE group plans to re­search and dis­cuss through­out the year are bul­ly­ing, drug and al­co­hol abuse and ho­mo­pho­bia.

“Our main goal is to con­trib­ute to a safe and car­ing school en­vi­ron­ment,” says Mercer. “ There are many is­sues a stu­dent faces on a daily ba­sis. Our group is en­deav­our­ing to bring aware­ness to th­ese is­sues and pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and sup­port. By re­search­ing and talk­ing about it we hope to gen­er­ate a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and cre­ate more em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion amongst our school com­mu­nity. We want our school to con­tinue to be a place where stu­dents feel safe, but we also hope it will be a place they will want to come to each day, place where they feel cared for and val­ued.”

Mercer says she hopes the AWARE group will also in­stil in her stu­dents a de­sire to be bet­ter friends and cit­i­zens.

“ What they learn here at school about

“We want our school to con­tinue to be a place where stu­dents feel safe, but we also hope it will be a place they will want to come to each day, a place where they feel cared for

and val­ued.”

Krys­tle Mercer, Bac­calieu Guid­ance Coun­sel­lor

th­ese is­sues can be taken and ap­plied to other ar­eas of their life as well,” said Mercer. “ Through­out their lives they’re go­ing to en­counter all kinds of per­sonal chal­lenges and come in con­tact with all kinds of peo­ple who are strug­gling and fac­ing some of the very same is­sues we are dis­cussing in our AWARE group. Hope­fully they will be able to draw on some of the things they learned here to help not just them­selves, but oth­ers as well.”

Re­search and bul­letin board

To ed­u­cate the school com­mu­nity on eat­ing dis­or­ders, mem­bers of AWARE cre­ated a bul­letin board con­tain­ing all kinds of in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing ar­ti­cles from The Com­pass, on the topic. Withers was im­pressed by the dis­play. “It rep­re­sented a lot of the in­for­ma­tion I talked about in my pre­sen­ta­tion,” he said. “ They (stu­dents) had the re­search done be­fore I even got to their school, which made my job of try­ing to ex­plain the causes and signs of an eat­ing dis­or­der a lot eas­ier. I also liked the fact that the stu­dents em­ceed and ran the show. They planned the event and did a fan­tas­tic job.”

The stu­dents credit their Guid­ance teacher, Mercer for guid­ing them along and help­ing them out.

“She’s great! Ev­ery morn­ing for the past few weeks she has sent a fact or fic­tion state­ment out to ev­ery stu­dent on the topic of eat­ing dis­or­ders,” said White. “It gets us think­ing and causes us to look for the an­swers. If our group helps just one per­son who is go­ing through an is­sue, in some small way, then we’ve reached our goal.”

Denise Pike/The Com­pass IM­POR­TANT IS­SUE - Krys­tle Mercer, Bac­calieu Guid­ance Coun­sel­lor; Gerry An­gel, trea­surer of the Eat­ing Dis­or­ders Foun­da­tion of New­found­land and Labrador, and Vince Withers, the foun­da­tions’ chair­man, dis­cuss the im­por­tance of get­ting the mes­sage on eat­ing dis­or­ders out to stu­dents across the prov­ince.

DIS­PLAY-To ed­u­cate the school com­mu­nity on eat­ing dis­or­ders, mem­bers of the Bac­calieu AWARE group cre­ated a bul­letin board con­tain­ing all kinds of in­for­ma­tion on the topic.

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