SWEDA is here to support children and young people
As students across the region prepare to return to school and colleges for the next academic year, we take a look at how our services can provide young people with much-needed eating disorder support.
SWEDA recognises challenges faced by young people with body image and eating problems
The Somerset & Wessex Eating Disorders Association has been engaging with young people since our inception in 1992. While people of all ages are affected by eating disorders, SWEDA is most frequently contacted by those aged 16-25. This highlights the need to support young people with body image and eating problems.
SWEDA reaches out to young people in a number of ways. Bristol Clinical Lead Sue Thomas explains, "We support lots of young people. We do it through colleges, we do it through senior schools, we do it through Freshers' Fairs and we also do it through community events as well." Having worked with young people with body and eating issues for several years, Sue quickly came to recognise that "An eating disorder can create many challenges for a young person. It can make them feel really isolated. It can also affect their education, their social life, their sense of self and their self-confidence. It can affect their relationships, so it can create not only physical, but also mental challenges as well."
Body image and eating problems are common in young people
Having an eating disorder or facing body image issues is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, in 2019, SWEDA ran a body image survey that focused on the experience of young people in particular. The survey found that 63% of young people aged 17-20 have felt depressed or upset about their bodies and 25% of people aged 16 have resorted to extreme measures to change the way they look. 'Extreme measures' include fasting, extreme dieting, vomiting, taking laxatives and considering plastic surgery to change or enhance the way they look.
Bristol North & West Support Worker Hannah Saunders says, "What I'd like a young person to know is that they're not alone. Reaching out can feel very daunting, but by doing that, that is the hardest step done. At SWEDA, we are ready and wanting to help you with your recovery, however that may look for you."
We offer a range of support that suits the young person's needs
Support is delivered in a range of ways. Sedgemoor Support Worker Catherine Eves explains, "The sort of support we've got available for a young person with an eating disorder ranges from telephone calls which can be over the course of a few weeks, or every couple of weeks, touching base to see what's going on. We can offer counselling, some of which is quite focused and some of which is a bit more longer term and perhaps looking into what's going on behind the scenes. And we also have a couple of Support Groups for people who have an eating disorder and perhaps for someone who has a friend or family member who has an eating disorder." However, young people feel that support is best-suited to them, SWEDA is happy to tailor support to meet that individual's needs.
Our Support Workers are present in schools and colleges across the region
SWEDA's regional Support Workers are present in schools and colleges across the south west. This includes at Bridgwater and Taunton College, Strode College, Richard Huish College and Yeovil College. Students attending these educational institutions can approach the Support Worker directly or contact their Student Support Service and ask to be put in touch with them. They will be happy to help you and discuss any issues you are having. You may simply have some questions regarding eating disorders and want to learn more about them - the Support Workers are more than happy to help shed a light on this sometimes elusive topic. As SWEDA has grown to provide service provision in Bristol, our Bristol Area Support Workers are also preparing to enter schools and colleges in the region and expand the College Support offering the charity provides.
SWEDA is here to engage, enable and empower a young person's recovery
While the Support Workers recognise that reaching out can be challenging first step, Emma Willes wants young people to know that "SWEDA are a non-judgemental, warm, compassionate and confidential team. They empower, engage and enable their service users and SWEDA's doors are always open for anyone who needs us."
If you are a young person in need of SWEDA's help, please don't hesitate to get in touch. You can reach us via our contact form. Whatever your issue, rest assured, SWEDA is here for you. As Mendip Support Worker Mel Nelson says, "An eating disorder can feel very challenging and isolating, so we are here to help."View All Blogs