The mother of a Co Down woman who died after struggling with bulimia believes GPs here must receive better training to treat eating disorder cases.
Sophie Bridges (21), a past pupil of Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, died from a heart attack in March 2018 after suffering from the eating disorder since 2009.
Her mother Sharon, who lives in Killyleagh, said she was not surprised by the rise in diagnoses of eating disorder cases in Northern Ireland. "I do think they are a lot higher because a lot of people who do need help haven't come forward so they haven't been diagnosed," Mrs Bridges said.
"I think a lot of people do keep it very much a secret." She continued: "Even if they do realise they have a problem, a lot of people haven't even bothered going to their GP because help is so difficult to get in Northern Ireland."
Mrs Bridges believes a facility should be set up here to specifically deal with eating disorders. The Co Down woman has also called for GPs to receive better training in eating disorder diagnosis.
"GPs are the first point of call for a family and they are often the one who would make the referral, so they really need to listen to the parents because in most cases eating disorders start quite young," she added.
"These illnesses ruin people's lives to the point of death and I'm glad people have been able to contact me since Sophie's death."