Every fifty-two minutes somebody dies of an eating disorder, proving eating disorders to have the highest mortality rate of any other recognised psychiatric illness. In the last decade we have seen people within lower and lower age brackets presenting with body image based eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. With the typical onset age being 15 to 20 years of age we are now seeing children as young as ten being diagnosed with eating disorders, and left in need of treatment and support services that do not exist in Ireland.
It is estimated that there are roughly 1,750 new eating disorder cases in the 10-49 age group in Ireland per year, where public mental health services are already under immense pressure due to lack of funding. Parents of adolescents suffering with eating disorders have reported waiting up to 18 months before being given any sort of professional help. The key to effectively treating eating disorders is early intervention where treatment begins before a person needs to be admitted to a hospital before and the long term effects of eating disorders begin to set in, for example; infertility, osteoporosis, and in many cases organ failure.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added fuel to the already blazing fire of people struggling with their mental health without access to support services, but more specifically affecting those with eating disorders. According to the Irish Medical Journal there has been a 66% increase in the number of hospital admissions for people presenting with eating disorders and the resulting physical health complications since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since 2017 there has been €5.7 million allocated for eating disorder treatment services, and despite the ever growing prevalence of eating disorders, just over 3% of this budget has been spent, with funding being entirely suspended in 2020. As it stands only one private specialised treatment facility in Ireland, meaning people without private health insurance are left to battle their eating disorders completely alone, until they reach a stage where their physical health is compromised enough to be offered one of few public beds in larger psychiatric hospitals.
This is an absolute indictment of the capitalist class in Ireland where people are being left to struggle alone, without any support. The money for adequate treatment is there but the ever growing disinterest of the Irish government in investing in public mental health services has prevented such support services from being put in place. A person’s access to help for mental illness should not be dependent on physical sickness, but instead available so that early intervention is possible.