Portlethen pupils learn about eating disorders

Sara Preston, Young Beat Ambassador, Jan McDonald, parent, Dr Jane Morris, Consultant Psychiatrist NHS Grampian, Dennis Robertson, MSP and Neil Morrison, Headteacher, Portlethen 'Academy.

Sara Preston, Young Beat Ambassador, Jan McDonald, parent, Dr Jane Morris, Consultant Psychiatrist NHS Grampian, Dennis Robertson, MSP and Neil Morrison, Headteacher, Portlethen 'Academy.

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In a first for Scotland, NHS Grampian is to join forces with education authorities in the North East to tackle the subject of Eating Disorders head on.

The groundbreaking event was held at Portlethen Academy this past Monday (30 September). The event was about sharing good practice with teachers and raising awareness of these complex disorders particularly at such a vulnerable stage in adolescence.

The original idea was inspired by discussions with Dennis Robertson MSP and his family after the death of their daughter Caroline to Anorexia Nervosa two years ago.

The school she attended was passionate in their wish to honour her memory.

Dr Jane Morris, consultant psychiatrist at The Eden Unit inpatient facility for eating disorders, Royal Cornhill Hospital, Aberdeen, is chairing the event and said teachers can play a leading role in helping identifying these disorders.

She said: “Neil Morrison, the dynamic headmaster at Portlethen Academy, and his colleagues, joined forces with us to put together a programme that would meet the needs of, and involve teachers.

“We have also drawn upon the expertise of colleagues, carers and recovered patients, to contribute a programme that includes teachers’ own presentations.

“Secondary school teachers are particularly well placed to identify eating disorders, to monitor young people’s health and progress in treatment, and above all to make links with treatment teams.

“We believe that schools’ authority, loving parental concern and specialist treatment teams can form the ideal ‘triangle of care’ around young sufferers and support the ‘tough love’ that is crucial to recovery.”

Delegates are teachers and school nurses from both state and private secondary schools in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire were invited with representation from higher education colleges, whose students start as young as 15 or 16.

Portlethen Academy Head Teacher, Neil Morrison said: “Eating Disorders are an issue that can be a significant barrier to the learning and development of young people and anything we can do to create a greater understanding of the issues and how we can best support young people is a benefit.

“The event aims to bring professionals together to raise awareness of the issues and to share and develop good practice that will enable us to support young people. The key to support is working in partnership and the conference typifies that approach.”

Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education, Learning and Leisure Committee Councillor Isobel Davidson was delighted to participate in the event the first of it’s kind.

She said: “I am delighted to be involved in this joint event which is a first in Scotland to raise awareness of eating disorders and address this as far as we can in our schools.“

Dennis Robertson MSP who’s original instructions said: “It is fitting that this groundbreaking event is taking place in the North-east, and I wish to thank all those involved, especially Neil Morrison, who first spoke of taking this idea forward.

“We have come along way in raising the profile of Eating Disorders since the death of my daughter Caroline. We still have a long journey in tackling the issues around the illness, and this Conference demonstrates the determination of NHS Grampian and the Education Departments from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to make a difference.”