Search

Teenage anorexia campaign launched by Highgate schoolgirls is backed by Alastair Campbell

08:00 16 January 2014

Sophia Parvizi Wayne and Amber Van Dam campaign for mental health classes to be made compulsory in all schools. Picture: Polly Hancock

Sophia Parvizi Wayne and Amber Van Dam campaign for mental health classes to be made compulsory in all schools. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Two schoolgirls have launched a campaign to tackle an anorexia epidemic among teenagers by calling for awareness classes to become part of the school curriculum.

Sophia Parvizi Wayne and Amber Van Dam, 16-year-old pupils at Highgate School, have seen first-hand the effects of anorexia and are concerned by the rising number of young people suffering from eating disorders.

Describing a culture where young people are “pressured into wanting to be perfect” and a media industry obsessed with unhealthy body images and skinny models, the two friends say it is time pupils and parents were taught how to spot symptoms and help vulnerable people.

Sophia, from Highgate, lost three stone in just over a year and said the difference between diet and disorder had become blurred among her age group.

“I never wanted to be thin but I lost a lot of weight from running and developed anorexia from there,” said Sophia, now an international cross country runner for England.

“I had no clue it was happening as to begin with I was still eating, but I just wasn’t eating the amount and type of food I needed.

“I would always feel cold and tired – my body was breaking down and dying. The weight loss snowballed and I developed anorexia, becoming anxious whenever I was around food. It was like a disease.

“There’s a lot of pressure to be perfect. We have sex education and drug education, but nothing about eating disorders.”

Amber, from West Hampstead, said watching Sophia, one of her closest friends, suffer, was a shock that “opened her eyes”.

“Sophia was lucky as usually there’s only a 50 per cent chance of recovery,” she said.

“The generation that’s teaching us is detached from the issue and it’s a problem that’s escalating.”

The girls have launched an online petition calling for eating disorders and mental health to be included in the national curriculum, and have enrolled Highgate School in an Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Headteacher Adam Pettitt said the campaign was “really worthwhile”.

He said: “It’s brilliant the girls have come out and shared their story and I’m sure we’ll see more focus on mental health among young people as a result.”

The campaign has drawn support from ex-Labour spin-doctor Alastair Campbell, a well-known sufferer of depression.

He said: “It’s fantastic that Sophia and Amber are putting their heads above the parapet like this.

“I think attitudes are changing, but slowly, and it may well fall to the next generation to deal with this properly.”

The number of people diagnosed with eating disorders has risen by 15 per cent since 2000, according to the latest study by King’s College London and the UCL Institute of Child Health.

The most susceptible group is adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 but diagnosis among boys has also increased.

More than 4,600 girls and 335 boys aged 15 to 19 develop an eating disorder in the UK yearly.

Lianne Thorndyke, of eating disorder charity Beat, said reaching young people is vital.

“We work with schools as we know early intervention is key,” she said.

“It’s about teaching students, staff and family members how to identify symptoms.”

If you would like to support Sophia and Amber’s campaign, their petition can be found at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/59244

0 comments

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Fri, 17:55

Police are appealing for witnesses after the death of a woman who was hit by a coach in Camden.

Fri, 16:38

A City boss from Hampstead likened to the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ has been jailed for a year after sexually assaulting two women.

Fri, 16:34

A pedestrian was hit by a car in South Grove in a road traffic collision this afternoon.

Fri, 13:27

Welcome, hope and tolerance have been the three key messages for students learning about refugees.

Thu, 17:30

Camden Council has claimed a “major victory” after Airbnb announced today that it will limit entire home listings to 90 days a year in London.

Thu, 16:53

Haringey has the third-highest proportion of homeless residents in England, new figures have revealed.

Thu, 16:31

In the first of a series written from the Greek town of Thessaloniki, currently home to more than 20,000 refugees, a trainee journalist from Kentish Town writes about her life as a volunteer

Thu, 15:24

A pair of Barnet schools believe the future is bright after announcing a “strategic partnership” on Monday.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now