Spain is experiencing the highest number of suicides in its history. 2020 was a tragic year and not just because of the coronavirus. Almost 4,000 people decided to kill themselves, the worst figure in records. Deaths in women increased, which for the first time exceeded a thousand cases per year, and also those of very old people who grew by 20%. «There had never been 14 suicides of children under 15 years of age either. (double that in 2019) ”, recalls Andoni Andoni Anseán, president of the Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide.
The suicide of the actress Verónica Forqué is not yet part of this statistic, but your case has refocused on a problem of
that Spanish society seemed alien. In the emergency services of hospitals, the feeling has been different for a year. There they have seen how suicide attempts have almost quadrupled and most are repeat offenders: people who had already been assisted for the same reason.
For many people, the pandemic has been the trigger for a mental health problem that has exploded into precarious health services. «In Madrid, one of the communities that allocates the most resources, the average delay time to access a mental health center is two to three months. Now there is not a single free bed in day hospitals for children and adolescents. Suicide attempts, affective disorders and depression and eating behavior problems are overflowing the capacities of an already poor system, “denounces Celso Arango, president of the Spanish Society of Psychiatry.
He closely experiences the stress of large hospitals. At the Gregorio Marañón in Madrid, where he directs the Department of Psychiatry, he has seen “a very important increase” in mental health problems in young people for almost a year, especially in preadolescents and adolescents. ” It is more than a drip. It is young people who are increasing the number of suicides alarmingly, he warns. “And we have not been able to foresee it”, recognize. He does not doubt his link with the almost three years of pandemic that we dragged on. “Those who were confined the longest, had a worse relationship with their families or spent more time hooked on social networks are those who are suffering the most disorders,” he explains.
No official waiting list data
Saturation is not just a problem in the Community of Madrid. The waiting list to access mental health services varies greatly by hospital, day center, psychologist, or if the patient is a child or an adult. Nor does the Ministry of Health offer official average delay data because psychiatry and mental health are not among the specialties that it controls in its waiting list report. Yes, cataract or bunion operations are. In a scan of data, community by community, it is seen that access to psychiatric consultation is also between two and three months in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands or Castilla y León. In Andalusia, for example, the demand for mental health has grown by over 30%. “And it does not descend,” warns Javier Romero, psychiatrist and co-director of the Andalusian Comprehensive Mental Health Plan, reports Antonio Jiménez. “Only in the Virgen de la Victoria hospital in Malaga are attended between eight and ten emergencies a day,” he says.
Not enough specialists
Private medicine does not scale to this explosion of cases either. “We are seeing a new profile of patients that is added to patients with mental health problems who were not treated during the worst crisis of the pandemic,” says Álvaro Pico, medical director of the Nuestra Señora de La Paz Clinic of the Order of San Juan de Dios. “People who have lost a loved one and suffer a pathological grief and many, many young people with pictures of anxiety, depression and eating disorders.” In his clinic, the waiting lists and the number of people awaiting hospital admission have doubled.
Behind a suicidal ideation there is a depressive picture and to address them, follow-up is crucial. If the risk is moderate or high, you are admitted for supervision for an average of fifteen days. “Afterwards, follow-up is key because the risk of relapse is multiplied in someone who has already tried it. Y Spain addresses this situation with few specialists. “Our professional ratios are well below the European average, both in the number of psychiatrists, as well as psychologists and, above all, of specialized nursing personnel,” recalls Arango. The government has offered a mental health strategy that will not solve it. The promised one hundred million is a “ridiculous” amount to hire the professionals that are needed, insists the president of the Spanish psychiatrists.
A 24-hour telephone service
The psychiatrists had demanded from the Government a national plan against suicide, like the one already in 38 countries in the world. This initiative has not been included, at least for now, although the mental health strategy has yet to be finalized. At the moment, the only concrete announcement is the telephone service, a service number with 24 hours, seven days a week, similar to the one already counted by battered women.
The new number will be added to other telephone and online services that already manage suffering and suicidal ideation in a professional and free way. The best known is the phone of hope. The Anar Foundation also has several telephone help services for minors and families. And there is also a telephone against suicide staffed by psychiatrists and experts in suicidal behavior.
The Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide applauds the government’s initiative “because we started from a desert, in which no government had done anything until now,” explains its president. He adds other requests: “We need awareness campaigns to break the taboo, such as those that have been carried out in gender violence and to train all professionals more.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism