Butterfly Prevention Services – Working to Change the Picture Since 2007
Butterfly’s education and prevention services have been working with schools, in communities and with sporting organisations, around Australia since 2007. In that time the breadth of services has grown and our areas of operation extended Australia-wide. We are proud to have reached an estimated 1.2 million young people as a result of our work with educators, community professionals, parents and guardians as well as young people themselves.
Prevention work is not for the faint-hearted or those looking for quick easy fixes. How an eating disorder develops is incredibly complex and different for everyone. With no single cause to blame they often present alongside other co-morbidities. How we work to prevent eating disorders is still very much being understood. However, there is evidence to support prevention work in schools where the focus is on the known modifiable risk factors and protective factors.
It is the depth of understanding of these factors which underpins all of Butterfly’s prevention work. Informing, empowering and educating on ways to minimize body dissatisfaction and increase healthy attitudes and behaviours in relation to our body/appearance, eating and exercise as well as encouraging help-seeking and early intervention is central to what we do. Our work supports young people by taking a whole of school/community approach so as to ensure they have access to consistent, helpful and positive messages in all environments – their schools, their sporting clubs, their homes and among their peer and friendship groups.
A key theme within prevention research is that programs and initiatives should always ‘do no harm’ and this is a key consideration in Butterfly’s prevention services, programs and initiatives. Content is evidence informed, age and developmentally appropriate and adheres to best practice guidelines on the safe delivery of messaging.
Connecting key and helpful messages to young people.
Connecting and relating the important messages to young people is not always easy – young people can be a tough audience! We also know that the issue of body image is ever evolving… social media and diet culture are some prime examples. Our sessions are updated annually, considering emerging research as well as the notable trends that young people are exposed to in western society.
Sessions to young people are presented by highly trained facilitators who connect, relate and inspire young people by not only sharing the information and messages, but also by weaving aspects of their own lived experience into the sessions in a safe, relevant and considered way.
Contact education is powerful stuff and we have seen young people become more engaged when they are hearing from people who have been there and have overcome their own body image challenges.
Our single-sessions compliment other body image and mental health programs with the focus of each session addressing what is most relevant for their age and stage of development; topics explored include appearance and body ideals, body comparisons, social-media/media, resilience, diet-culture, myths that reinforce stigma and clear messaging and support around help-seeking. Our work with young people is for all genders.
Everyone plays a part helping young people to change the picture.
The way a person feels about their body can make or break them. This is particularly so for young people as there are serious consequences to a person’s wellbeing and potential; their studies, work, relationships/friendships, their physical and mental health, if body image concerns continue throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
The more often young people are exposed to consistent, strong and positive messages, through programs, awareness initiatives, role modelling, the stronger the impact. Adults have precious hindsight; they know what could or would have helped them to change the picture in their younger years but they also recognise the unique set of challenges facing young people right now.
If growing up in an image obsessed social media society wasn’t enough, 2020 added COVID into the already murky mix. Adults can be a significant and positive influence on young people and their attitudes and behaviours when it comes to body image. With accurate information and guidance, they can support young people to be more resilient when confronted with harmful messages and imagery in society that tries to convince them that their worth as a human is defined by their body shape, weight, size and appearance.
We believe our work with professionals and parents is the key to truly making a difference with young people and is integral to our ‘whole of’ approach. If those working with young people feel better equipped and supported, with evidence informed resources on hand, are aware of the warning signs and feel confident to know what to do when identifying and intervening early when a young person is at risk, then our collective impact will be far greater.
Our professional and parent programs, also facilitated by highly experienced and qualified presenters, encourage and empower adults to become positive body image educators, as well as strong role models for the young people in their lives.
Having worked with thousands of schools and organisations over the years, we appreciate and respect that curriculum, budgets and time is tight and that each school/organisation is unique in its own way. The Butterfly prevention services team strives to build positive and ongoing working relationships that ensures the needs of schools and community groups/organisations are met. We feel honoured to be able to support schools and communities in this way.
The demand for Butterfly’s prevention services has never been greater and it is important that we can continue to meet the needs of schools and communities around the country. Our ability to now offer face to face and virtual sessions has allowed us to work with more schools and organisations – at a time when they are struggling to know what to do and how to positively support the increased number of young people experiencing body image concerns and also eating disorders. Our small, yet dedicated core team is working hard to meet the increasing demand which has been brought about by the stressors of 2020 and COVID-19.
Butterfly prevention services continues to evolve, develop and expand as we work to provide schools and communities with innovative body image education. Body Kind Schools is now open for registrations, Australia’s largest body image movement for young people, free for schools to participate. In July 2021 we are excited to be extending our programs to support primary school aged, children, through Australia’s first whole of primary school body image program Butterfly Body Bright.
Butterfly prevention services is not slowing down, with further funding and support we will be able to continue to develop innovative programs and initiatives but also adapt and tailor our existing programs to better meet the needs of schools, organisations and groups who sit outside of the mainstream environment.
There is still so much to do, and the need for prevention and early intervention work has never been greater.
The more funding we have, the more children, parents and schools we can reach, with low cost and free resources and sessions around Australia.