Overweight teens, and teens who view themselves as overweight, may be at heightened risk of attempting suicide, stated a recent study. Published online
in the Journal of Adolescent Health (doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.03.006), the study analyzed BMI, perceived weight and suicide attempts among more than 14,000 high-school students. “Our findings show that both perceived and actual overweight increase risk for suicide attempt,” stated lead study author Monica Swahn, PhD. The
results held true for both boys and girls.

“As a fitness professional you can be
in a powerful position to impact a teen’s self- and body images,” states Divya Kakaiya, PhD, founder of the Healthy Within Foundation. “Fitness professionals can become some of the most loving, nurturing people for someone dealing with body image issues. They can teach a person about being fit and fat at the same time.” But Kakaiya warns that this population must be handled carefully. “Teens have to be welcomed into the world of movement by warm, welcoming attitudes. These kids already hate themselves to such a degree that they’d rather die than be fat.” Kakaiya adds
that weight loss should not be the goal; “self-acceptance and rejecting media pressures on thinness would be a huge part of the work that the fitness professional would do.”

It is also important to be cognizant of scope of practice and to refer your teen client to a qualified professional if you have concerns that he or she may
be at risk.