Saturday, May 23, 2009

Generation Next Explodes Myths

Last night I attended the "Generation Next" seminar in Sydney, hosted by Sunrise's Melissa Doyle, and wasn't surprised to see a room packed full of 800 concerned parents eager to learn more about the current issues affecting our teenagers.

With 1 in 4 young people diagnosed with mental illness, including eating disorders, there is a need to raise awareness of how parents can help and support their children, and the important role a GP can play in their child's development.

Around 160,000 young people aged 16-24 years live with depression(1) which is known to destroy the basis for rational thought. Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, official Ambassador for the National Depression Initiative - Beyondblue - stated that depression can be triggered by alcohol and other drug use, and this week launched the "Youth Beyond Blue" campaign to help young people find their way back from anxiety and depression.

Wendy Protheroe from Kids Helpline said that the majority of callers to the Helpline were from teenagers who felt that their parents didn't listen to them. Kids Helpline receives calls from 300,000 children per year which shows how great the need is for our young people to feel as though they have a voice.

Other issues raised include cyberbullying, alcohol and drug use as well as sex education and the emerging trend "sexting", which disturbingly, has already resulted in a teenager up on child pornography charges for posting lewd a picture of themself on the internet.

Generation Next founder Dr Ramesh Manocha said that our teenagers lack the cognitive and emotional maturity, as well as life experience, to deal with the images they come across on the internet, and that it is up to parents to regulate and supervise internet usage.

He also said that signs your child may have depression, and you should see a GP are:

  • any time your child appears to be unhappy withdtrawn, or
  • over emotional, or
  • sleeping poorly for more than two weeks at a time.
The four hour seminar explores a myriad of issues and goes a long way in helping the older generations devise strategies to improve communication and better support our young people.

For more information on the Generation Next seminars taking place around the country, go here:

Other Resources:

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008). 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results (4326.0). Canberra: ABS

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Anorexic Male Says 'Men Need More Help'

Nineteen-year-old Chris Hardy said controlling what he ate had given him a sense of achievement.

"A lot of stuff happened at 11 or 12 that was quite traumatic. My parents divorced, I moved school, moved house. And then you also start to become more aware of body image at that age anyway."

When he started medicine at university, his food intake dropped dramatically."I would count out the exact number of pieces of cereal to eat to have each morning, have a cracker lunchtime, and then maybe a few bits of pasta in the evening ... even that seemed too much and I would work on reducing it the next day. That was how I got a sense of achievement."

When he could no longer concentrate in lectures, Chris sought help and was treated for seven months at a specialist hospital.

According to national support charity B-eat, more than 11,000 male patients are receiving treatment nationally. But this may represent only a small proportion of those who have the condition and are keeping it hidden.

'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' is a new website for men who are affected by anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, compulsive eating and bigorexia. The site is designed to provide male sufferers with essential information and advice on eating disorders including warning signs, treatment options and support services.

Website founder Sam Thomas wrote on his Facebook "I'm currently trying to end the stigma associated with male eating disorders through my web and publicity campaign 'Men Get Eating Disorders Too.' Too often eating disorders are assumed to be female only conditions, however this is NOT the case. Recent statistics released by the NHS Info Centre say that a quarter of diagnosed cases of eds are men (approx 700,000 men) - no doubt there are many more cases that are undiagnosed."

Men speaking out about their eating disorders is a huge leap forward in cutting through the stigma associated with males and eating issues. Hopefully this will encourage more males to come forward and seek help.

For more information:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Raising an Eating Disorder-Free Child

In a recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, 101 children aged 5-13 who had been diagnosed with eating disorders were studied. 78% were so severely ill they had to be admitted to hospital. About half required nasogastric tube feeding and one third were given psychotropic medications such as anti-depressants. Only 27% met the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa while half did not meet the weight criteria (which requires the patient to be less than 85% of their ideal weight for their height). 61% had potentially life-threatening complications such as malnutrition.

The study has shown that the criteria for diagnosing eating disorders in adults should not be applied to young children because they are not being recognised as having eating disorders until they are extremely ill.

The study also found that a quarter of the sufferers were boys.

With the incidence of eating disorders on the rise amongst children as young as primary school age, there is a need for greater awareness of the early warning signs amongst parents.

Dr Stacey Rosenfeld, a New York City based psychologist and eating disorder specialist, says that being a psychologically savvy parent can help significantly decrease the chances that your child will develop a clinical eating disorder. "Kids are very smart and they pick up on their parents' relationship with their own bodies and with food," she says. "What is most important is that parents need to recognise the signs and trust their instincts. Oftentimes, parents ignore early signs because they feel that this problem would be a bad reflection of their parenting and love for their child. If parents witness the signs and jump in early, they can get their child off a dangerous path."

Dr Rosenfeld advises parents to talk about foods in the context of how they nourish their child's body, encourage physical activity for the sake of health (instead of weight control) and focus on their child's strengths outside of their body.

When I'm on the speaker's circuit, one thing I always advise parents to do is this: compliment your child on their strengths unrelated to the way they look. For example "you are so caring, looking after your sister like that", "I love how you've done your hair, it looks really pretty" and "aren't you clever, figuring that out". Praise your child and give them positive reinforcement, especially in the areas where their talents lie. Honour your child's magnificence and their confidence will soar. Confidence fosters self esteem which creates a positive self image, including body image.

To read more about Dr Rosenfeld's advice for parents visit: