Teacher uses personal story to educate students on eating disorders

Teacher uses personal story to...

MILTON, Wis. - A Milton man who lost his daughter to an eating disorder is using his role as a teacher to help other kids.

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Michael Dorn usually teaches students at Milton High School how to solve math equations, but on Monday he taught freshman students about eating disorders and how to spot the signs.

"Eating disorders are real. They are something that can be recovered from but they are also dangerous and not something to be taken lightly," Dorn said.

Health is not the subject he usually teaches but it's one that has the most meaning to the math teacher after watching his daughter, Maria, battle anorexia for three years. Her illness started her freshman year.

"This is really the age where we need to get through to students that things are going on so that if something does develop, they can be there. They can be the eyes and ears and get somebody help," he said.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 11 percent of high school students in the nation are diagnosed with an eating disorder. Three percent of adolescents affected most do not receive treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

"Eating disorders aren't something that just happens in literature or in the movie screen. They happen to real people and they can happen to their friends and have real consequences and they can help with it. They can help with her recovery," Dorn said.

Speaking from experience, Dorn shared his family's story, including the warning signs and how to support those who are struggling.

"In high school, we tend to think a lot about ourselves and it's better to help understand the signs of an eating disorder so we can actually come out of that and notice everything around us and what's going on and not just focus on ourselves," freshman  Cheyenne Slazman said.

It's a lesson in loss that Dorn hopes will help save another family.

"I miss her a lot, but what we are doing is trying to use what happened to her to prevent it from happening to someone else. If I can do this, it can maybe affect one life in a positive way, then it makes all the effort worthwhile," Dorn said.

Since Maria's death, Dorn and his wife, Alita, have created an organization in her name called "Project Mar;a." They are partnering with Janesville Mobilizing for Change to create a temporary display of books ad resources at the Janesville Hedberg Public Library. They will also host an event on March 3 from 5-7 p.m. at Festival Foods at 2233 Humes Road in Janesville. They will discuss eating disorders and have attendees make affirming greeting cards that will be sent to local treatment facilities.

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