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HEALTH

024: What you need to know about Spain’s new suicide prevention hotline 

Spain has launched a 24-hour phoneline for people with suicidal thoughts and their families as part of a €100-million plan to improve mental health provision in the country, where an average of 11 people take their own lives every day. 

024: What you need to know about Spain's new suicide prevention hotline 
Suicide is the main unnatural cause of death in Spain, with 3,941 cases accounted for in 2020. Photo: Gadiel Lazcano/Unsplash

Spain’s Ministry of Health launches on Tuesday May 10th 2022 a specialised hotline under the motto “Llama a la vida”  (Call to life).

People experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviour as well as their relatives will be able to dial 024, available 24 hours a day for every day of year, a service that’s free of charge and completely confidential.

Fátima Caballero, Red Cross health director and who will manage the suicide prevention line, has said that a team of “qualified and multidisciplinary” professionals will “will provide response, prevention and emotional support” to people who are thinking about taking their own lives, are trying to do so, and assist their families.

According Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias, the team behind the suicide prevention line will speak several languages, without specifying if this includes English.

“(Suicide) is a threat that has been silenced for too long,” Darias said, stressing that calling 024 will be an option for people with disabilities in Spain.

Suicide is the main unnatural cause of death in Spain, with 3,941 cases accounted for in 2020 (no official data for 2021 yet), which represented the highest number on record and a 5.7 percent increase compared to 2019. 

That means that on average 11 people take their own lives every day in Spain.

The suicide prevention scheme is part of a €100-million package announced by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez last October to finance mental health provisions in Spain, as the public health sector has been struggling to cope with rising demand for mental health services during the pandemic.

The funds will go to training professionals, fighting stigmatisation, ensuring early detection, preventing suicide and promoting emotional wellbeing.

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

Regarding the suicide prevention hotline, Spain is following the example of other European countries that offer anyone who has thoughts of taking their own life the chance of having professional help, someone who listens to them and if necessary activates a response in coordination with the emergency services.

For Health Minister Darias the hotline is “a measure that will help many people” and serve to “end stigmas and taboos” around suicide.

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.

“10.8 percent of Spaniards have consumed tranquillisers, relaxants or sleeping pills,” Sánchez tweeted last October. “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.”

READ ALSO: How to find an English-speaking therapist in Spain

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HEALTH

What is the average waiting time across Spain to see a doctor?

Find out the average amount of time you'll have to wait to see your GP, a specialist and get a non-urgent surgery in your region of Spain.

What is the average waiting time across Spain to see a doctor?

Where you live in Spain greatly affects the amount of time you’ll have to wait, from the first appointment with your family doctor to seeing a specialist and even through to an operation, if you need one. 

Two and half years after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, which almost brought the country’s clinics and hospitals to breaking point, how is the situation now?

Here are the average waiting times in each region of the country, with data published by the regional health authorities. 

Andalusia
In Andalusia, the average wait time to see a doctor is four days. To see a specialist such as a dermatologist or a cardiologist, however, you will be waiting three months. Wait times for non-urgent surgeries vary depending on what you need. 

Aragón
Those living in Aragón will typically be able to get a doctor’s appointment within three days, but to see a specialist, it is one of the worst regions in the country, with an average waiting time of four months.

Asturias
The latest waiting times to see a doctor or a specialist in Asturias have not yet been published, but if you need a special test such as an MRI, you will be waiting more than three months.

Balearic Islands
In the Balearics, the average waiting time for an appointment to see your GP is one week, while if you need to see a specialist, you will be waiting around two months. For a non-urgent surgery, you will be on the waiting list for an average of four and a half months. The Balearic Islands are one of the worst places if you need a diagnostic test though with an average wait of more than six months. 

Basque Country
Data from the Basque Country has so far not been made available. 

Canary Islands
Like in Aragón, the Canary Islands is one of the worst places to live if you need to see a specialist with the longest waiting time of more than four months.

Cantabria
Cantabria has so far not updated its data on waiting times to see a specialist, but if you need a non-urgent surgery it has one of the longest waiting times at six months.

Castilla-La-Mancha
Those in Castilla-La-Mancha have one of the shortest wait times to see a GP, being able to book an appointment within just 48 hours. They’ll have to wait longer to see a specialist, however, with an average wait of two months. Those waiting for non-urgent surgery will be waiting another four months.

Castilla y León
In Castilla y León you’ll wait an average of six days before being given an appointment and two months to see a specialist.

Catalonia
Residents of Spain’s northeastern region wait an average of five days in order to get a doctor’s appointment. For diagnostic tests, the wait time depends on what you need. You will be on the list for five months on average for a colonoscopy and two months for an MRI.

If you need to see a specialist again it will completely depend on what type of specialist you need to see. For example, if you need to see a urologist you’ll have to wait five months, but if you need to see a neurologist you’ll be able to get an appointment in less than three months. If your doctor thinks you require non-urgent surgery, you will need to wait another four and half months.

Extremadura
In Extremadura, you’ll have to wait an average of four days for an appointment, while the waiting time to see a specialist will be around two months. Like Cantabria, Extremadura is one of the worst places to live if you need non-urgent surgery, as you’ll be waiting around half a year.

Galicia
Those in Galicia will be able to see a doctor in just three days, however, they have not published recent data on the wait time to see a specialist. They have however published data for non-urgent surgery which is an average wait of three months.

Madrid
Like in Galicia, in Madrid the waiting time for an appointment is just three days, but two months to see a specialist. For a test like an ultrasound or a CT scan, you will be waiting two months. If you need a non-urgent surgery, you’ll be on the waitlist for a further three months.

Murcia
The average wait time to see your GP has not been made available yet, but like in Andalusia, you’ll be waiting more than three months if you need to see a specialist. It’s one of the best regions for wait times for diagnostic tests though as you will be waiting less than one month. 

Navarre
Navarre has one of the shortest wait times for an appointment, available in just 48 hours. If you need to see a specialist, you’ll be waiting a further two months. Those waiting for a non-urgent surgery will have to wait an average of three months.  

La Rioja
Along with Castilla-La Mancha and Navarre, La Rioja has the shortest wait time to get a doctor’s appointment. Here, you’ll be able to see your GP in just 48 hours. This region is also the best to live in if you need to see a specialist or get a specialised test, with a wait of less than one month. If you need non-urgent surgery though it’s not so good, as you’ll be waiting an average of four months.

Valencia
Those living in Valencia have the longest wait out of all the regions for an appointment, where you’ll wait more than a month just to see a GP. When it comes to seeing a specialist you’ll need to wait another three months. And if you need surgery, you will have to wait four and half months on top of that.

The types of non-urgent surgeries the data refers to are hip and knee replacements. For other types of surgeries, it will depend on how urgent it is and what type of surgery it is. At the beginning of the year, there were more than 706,000 people waiting for an operation in Spain, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

You should be aware, however, that official data doesn’t always represent reality. Some readers have told us that currently, they are having to wait a month to see their GP in Catalonia and seven months to see a specialist.

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