Aware, informed and making a difference
Baccalieu students build a safe and caring school
“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.”
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
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.