Mental health services and charities have seen astronomical rises in young people suffering from anorexia, bulimia and other disorders through the pandemic.
Figures released by NHS England show that 1,529 children and young people across Yorkshire & the Humber were treated for suspected eating disorders in the 12 months up to June 2021, a rise from 859 in the same period the year before and 825 the year before that.
Overall, the number has soared by 85 per cent in two years.
The data has been collected from the region's community healthcare trusts, including Tees Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust which covers most of North Yorkshire, as well as Teesside and County Durham.
NHS England's mental health director Claire Murdoch said the health service had seen "greater numbers than ever before" of youngsters being treated for potentially life-threatening conditions.
Former Emmerdale actor Gemma Oaten, who has previously been open about how her anorexia battle has impacted her fertility and is now manager and patron for Hull-based eating disorder charity SEED, said charities like hers were like “swans paddling for our lives under the water” as they faced a barrage of families seeking their help.
“We saw a 68 per cent increase in school-age children referred to us between 2019 and 2020, and I dread to think what those figures are this year,” she said.
“We’re not just getting calls asking for a bit of support now, we’re seeing more and more people in crisis who have been turned away from the NHS because they can’t cope.
"It's all well and good that the Government has committed to more mental health funding, but we need more help in the voluntary sector for those who fall between the gaps."
NHS England data shows that, of the 1,529 young people treated last year, 281 were urgent referrals – up from 130 the year before.
NHS rules state 95 per cent of urgent cases must begin treatment within a week and routine patients within four weeks – but figures showed some NHS Trusts were falling far short, with Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust only managing to see 38 per cent of urgently-referred patients on time.
Ms Oaten added that anorexia now only accounted for 10 per cent of the patients they were seeing, with bulimia and binge eating the most commonly-occurring disorders.
She also claimed that recent Government campaigning to target the issue of obesity had impacted on young people, with not enough focus in their strategies on the mental health aspect of the issue.
Claire Murdoch said the pandemic had taken its toll on the country’s mental health but that most staff had responded rapidly to treat youngsters with eating disorders, with the aid of additional Government funding and the roll out of dedicated services
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “As part of our Mental Health Recovery Action Plan, we’re investing £79 million to expand children’s mental health services and opening up eating disorder services to an extra 2,000 young people. Early intervention and treatment is vital.”