EXPLAINED: Spain’s new €100 million mental health plan

EXPLAINED: Spain's new €100 million mental health plan
Presenting the plan alongside the health minister, Carolina Darias, Sánchez said the government's mental health strategy had not been updated since 2009. Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP
Spain will launch a 2021-2024 mental health and Covid-19 action plan with a budget of €100 million, Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez announced Saturday, ahead of World Mental Health Day on Sunday.

The plan, which will need approval from Spain’s autonomous communities, will include a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline and a specialised mental health training programme for medical professionals.

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“10.8 percent of Spaniards have consumed tranquillisers, relaxants or sleeping pills,” Sánchez said in a tweet. “This says a lot about the problem we have in our society with mental health. We cannot normalise it. We must respond to this issue and analyse its causes and origins.”

Presenting the plan alongside the health minister, Carolina Darias, Sánchez said the government’s mental health strategy had not been updated since 2009. 

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The scheme will have a €100 million budget until 2024, and will focus on training professionals, fighting stigmatisation, early detection and prevention of suicide, and promoting emotional wellbeing.

The OECD has warned of the Covid-19 pandemic’s significant and unprecedented impact on mental health, the impact of which is still not yet fully understood.

Statistics show that 5,8 percent of the Spanish population has anxiety, and a similar percentage suffer from depression. On top of that, at least 1 million Spaniards have a “serious mental health disorder” and only half receive treatment.

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This is a health crisis that particularly affects young people. Almost half of 15-29 year-olds say they have suffered from mental health problems. Sánchez also pointed out that 13,2 percent of minors between the ages of 4 and 14 are at risk.

There are currently six psychologists in public health institutions for every 100.000 Spanish citizens – much lower than the European average of 18.

Suicide prevention

One of the key measures is the introduction of a 24-hour “free and confidential” suicide prevention hotline.

In 2019, 3,671 people committed suicide in Spain, making it the primary cause of death among young people after traffic accidents. The figures for 2020 are expected to be higher.

Professionals had been calling for this kind of national service for years. Currently, only the Barcelona city hall has a free suicide prevention phone number (900 921 55 55) and organisations such as la Barandilla in Madrid (911 385 385) and Teléfono de la Esperanza (717 003 717).

Sánchez said the new hotline will be rolled out “in the coming weeks”.

Specialised training in child and adolescent psychology

The plan also includes the introduction of a child and adolescent psychology specialism, approved by the government back in August.

Additional places will be made available in public universities for health professionals wanting to specialise in this area.

Fighting stigmatisation

Meanwhile, the plan also includes a national campaign to raise awareness and educate around mental health. The aim is to shatter stereotypes and fight the stigma surrounding these types of illnesses.

Preventing addiction

Another aspect will focus on preventing addictive behaviours caused by anxiety and depression. Part of this pays special attention to technology and social media, mobile phones and the internet in general, which particularly affect young people’s social interactions.

Promoting emotional wellbeing

Sánchez said that “no one is safe” from potential mental illness. Special attention will be paid to the wellbeing of children and adolescents, as well as vulnerable groups such as women, the elderly or people with disabilities.


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