Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Eating disorders rise is cause for concern

Editor's Viewpoint

Our special report on NHS staff who are facing a growing demand in Northern Ireland for the treatment of people with eating disorders is a stark reminder of the issue.

It was also brought into sharp focus by the recent death of Sophie Bridges at the age of only 21 after struggling with bulimia for several years.

Her devastated family have spoken out to highlight what they claim were shortcomings in the care offered to her.

The enormous financial constraints on hard-working NHS staff have been documented many times, and they also face stress in their unenviable task of matching scarce resources to the increasing need for all kinds of services.

The latest figures on eating disorders show that more people - young and old - are seeking help with bulimia, anorexia and other disorders. More than 700 people were referred for treatment between April 2017 and March this year. During the same period the Northern Trust treated 133 severe cases, including 73 adults.

However, the problem appears to be more acute among the young, and the health professionals attribute this to a number of factors, not least the disturbing impact of social media. One expert said that social media can motivate some sufferers to become even "better" anorexic competitors, such is the nature of the illness.

There have been calls previously to establish a special eating disorder unit locally, because some people have had to go to England and elsewhere for treatment.

Despite this, the experts interviewed today say such a unit is not viable due to our small population size, and they underline that each individual facing difficulties has his or her own circumstances and requirements.

Early intervention is the key to prevent eating orders taking hold, and society in general has a part to play in trying to deal with this serious problem.

Families have perhaps the biggest role to play, and also the best opportunities to notice the onset of an eating disorder. Schools, too, have a duty to educate young people about the dangers involved in developing the wrong eating patterns.

One encouraging aspect, however, is that people are now more conscious of the rise in eating disorders, and there is also a growing awareness that everyone - and not just the health professionals - have a role in tackling the problem.

Belfast Telegraph

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