People with eating disorders forced to travel to UK for treatment, says Cork TD Holly Cairns

People with eating disorders forced to travel to UK for treatment, says Cork TD Holly Cairns

Holly Cairns, Social Democrats TD for Cork South-West, says it is an area that has been overlooked for too long. Picture:Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Hospital admissions for patients with eating disorders more than tripled last year, prompting calls for more resources to be allocated to GPs and early intervention measures to be taken in schools.

A report from the Health Research Board found there were 116 admissions in 2021, up from 33 in 2018.

Women accounted for 96% of those who were diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Holly Cairns, Social Democrats TD for Cork South-West, says it is an area that has been overlooked for too long.

"This is an area that is constantly under-resourced despite eating disorders being among the psychiatric conditions most associated with mortality," said Ms Cairns.

The lack of investment in this area means people often have to go to the UK for treatment, they have to pay for it privately or the State does and others are just forced to spend thousands on private care."

The country's national eating disorder support service says that early intervention is key in preventing the person from reaching the stage where they require hospitalisation.

According to BodyWhys, last year saw 18% of under 18s referred for care for an eating disorder admitted to an acute hospital while one-in-12 of all referrals were referred from a hospital.

"Having to go into a hospital setting isn't ideal for recovery, people need to develop coping skills within their normal day-to-day life that will support them," said Ellen Jennings, Communications Officer with BodyWhys.

The post-pandemic surge currently being experienced in Ireland is in keeping with global trends as the events of the past two-and-a-half years triggered many people.

Ms Jennings said that when people's lives moved entirely online during lockdowns, this had a detrimental effect on many people's mental health.

"There is the kind of 'body ideals' and comparisons that people can make in the online environment. It is how people use social media.

"When everything was so focused online, it is difficult to get away from content that might not be so helpful for people."

Ms Cairns said that an onus lies on social media companies as research has consistently shown that young women are struggling under the pressure of unrealistic expectations and representations of bodies seen on the internet.

"All of that has to be addressed and social media companies - many of which are here in Ireland - need to be held to account."

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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