VICTORIA -- The B.C. government is committing $6.6 million to improve eating disorder services and expand virtual supports in the province, as demand for the services reached unprecedented heights during the pandemic.

Each health authority will be able to use the funding to hire more staff or expand existing services in their region over the next three years, according to the province.

"This expansion of eating disorder care comes at a time when the number and severity of cases of this life-threatening illness has reached an all-time high, due to increased anxiety and social isolation caused by the pandemic," said the province in a release Friday.

The B.C. government has also earmarked an additional $530,000 for the Looking Glass Foundation for Eating Disorders, which offers virtual peer supports for people across the province.

The Ministry of Health credits Looking Glass with being accessible to British Columbians, especially for people living in rural and underserved communities where services may not be as reachable.

"Eating disorders are the deadliest, yet most misunderstood mental illness," said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in a statement Friday.

"People suffering from eating disorders have told me their well-being and access to services has been disrupted by the pandemic. That is why we are expanding services in every health authority to ensure that more people get the help they need and deserve," she said.

Roughly 600,000 and 900,000 Canadian are diagnosed with an eating disorder each year, according to the province.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, says the Ministry of Health, with anorexia nervosa having a roughly 10 to 15 per cent mortality rate, and bulimia nervosa having a five per cent rate.