He said: “This increase is deeply regrettable and something that should set off warning alarms within the Department of Health.
“It must be noted that the Minister’s response shows the number of new people receiving treatment each year and does not detail the total number of people struggling with eating disorder.
“I was shocked that the department were unable to detail the gender breakdown in these figures given that eating disorders can affect men and women in different ways and this should be a consideration when developing a plan. We must also examine the age range of those affected.
“A strategy to roll back this sad increase must form part of the Minister’s overarching mental health strategy.
“A specialist unit for more severe cases should be on the table as should increasing support for patients and their families.
“Crucially, at a time when we are telling people to seek help for mental health problems, we must ensure that the help we provide is properly funded and resourced. Currently, mental health services receive only 5.5% of the healthcare budget despite accounting for 25% or all healthcare cases.
“We need a culture change within the Health Service that recognises that mental health issues can be as debilitating and dangerous as physical conditions. They must be treated as such,” added the Foyle MLA.