Minors with eating disorders wait up to 10 months before they get help

Minors with eating disorders wait up to 10 months before they get help
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In Flanders, 187 minors with an eating disorder are currently on a waiting list for admission to a specialised institution, with a waiting time of four to ten months, depending on the facility.

There are waiting lists for young people with eating disorders in both outpatient and residential care, but while outpatient care can usually be started within a month, specialised help in a facility often requires a long wait.

"The Flemish government has already invested a great deal to remedy this, but it appears not to be enough," said Flemish MP Freya Saeys in the Parliament on Monday, urging Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke to make extra efforts to quickly catch up on the waiting lists.

"Covid-19 is forcing us to face the facts. The acute shortage of psychological help has only increased in the past few months," she said. "It is up to minister Beke to come up with a good plan. We need more aid and shelter now."

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Figures from Beke's cabinet show that there are currently 187 young people on a waiting list. For an initial intake or an introductory interview, the wait is two to four months. But for admission itself, the total waiting time varies between four and nine to ten months.

However, the increased needs and demands are being met in various areas as much as possible, said Beke. Some 120 dieticians were hired by the non-profit organisation Eetexpert (the Flemish knowledge centre for eating and weight problems) for example, specifically with the aim of broadening the specialised care offer and responding to extra requests for care.

Additionally, the Centres for Mental Health Care (CGG) have also appointed an extra reference person for eating disorders per province, who strengthens the ambulatory care offer in each province.

Nearly one in five at risk

The results of a health survey in April 2021 published by the Sciensano national health institute show that the number of people who were identified as ‘at risk’ of developing an eating disorder increased to 11%, compared to 8% in 2013 and 7% in 2018.

Whether or not someone is considered ‘at risk’ is determined using the SCOFF questionnaire, an international tool used to screen for eating disorders in primary care.

Additionally, Sciensano’s analysis showed that more women (13%) are at risk than men (9%) and that the risk of developing an eating disorder decreases with age.

Among participants aged between 18 and 29, almost one in five people (18%) were at risk; this drops to 5% for those older than 65. However, an increase in the percentage of people at risk was found for all age categories, compared to 2013 and 2018.

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