When I was in grade 12 we had a special guest come into my Food & Nutrition class. While I forgot what the woman was talking about I do know that she made me feel safe enough to vaguely mention having issues with eating. A day or so later I was down at student services (for reasons I also do not remember) and saw a sticky note on the receptionist’s desk that said, “Kristen B, spoke of eating disorder in class.” I was HORRIFIED!!! Not only was a not speaking about having an eating disorder, this information was out on the desk for ANYONE to see. My first and last name! I spent the next few days scared that I would be called down to student services to be spoken to. This did not happen. Looking back, I am concerned that an adult would not follow up with me.
When you are a child or a teen you do not always know what is best for you. As much as young people like to keep secrets from adults, it is the adults that are still in charge of their safety. To have knowledge that a young person was talking about what they labeled as an eating disorder and to not follow up with that young person is careless. The role of adults in youth mental health treatment is to ask those tough questions (“Are you restricting your eating?”), letting them know you support them (“I am here if you need to talk.”) and set up the appropriate supports (“I can call in the school social worker to come and see you.”).
Adults cannot shy away because they are unsure of what to say, what to do or worse, do not believe that something is happening and blame hormones. Children and youth can’t do some things by themselves. They need adult guidance. This does not mean that children and youth are not consulted and adults should still respect their right to self-determination within reason. Children and youth need adults to be there for them so mental health issues can be prevented or lessened in children and youth.