Spain’s La Rioja region approves groundbreaking mental health law

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected] • 17 Mar, 2023 Updated Fri 17 Mar 2023 12:22 CEST
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La Rioja approves mental health law. Photo: Олег Безруков / Pixabay

La Rioja has become the first region in Spain to pass a mental health law, which establishes minimum ratios of psychologists in hospitals.


Mental health is an issue that affects many. According to the Spanish Confederation of Mental Health, one in four people in Spain has or will have a mental health problem in their lifetime.

La Rioja has become the first region in Spain to try and address the issue by bringing in a specific mental health law. The law establishes minimum ratios of psychologists in hospitals, includes a specific suicide prevention program and has a particular focus on young people.

Although talking about mental health has come a long way in recent years, the reality is that there is still a lack of means to guarantee adequate care. In Spain, there is no state law that regulates mental health.


The purpose of the law is so that people with mental health problems and their families in La Rioja can be guaranteed the right protection including disease prevention, assistance, care and rehabilitation services in the field of mental health.

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

One of the most important points of the new law is to increase the ratio of mental health professionals, making it equal to the European average. La Rioja will increase the number of psychologists and psychiatrists fivefold, from seven to 18 per 100,000 inhabitants.  

"This is going to be extremely important for health in general for both patients and professionals, who will feel more support and better quality in their work. Waiting times will be reduced. Currently, patients have to wait around three or four months… and we need an intervention as quickly as possible. Ideally, wait times would not exceed two weeks," explains Juan Cruz, a psychologist and member of the Official College of Educational Psychology of La Rioja. According to the psychologist, one out of three consultations in Primary Care in Spain is related to health mental health.

The President of the Government of La Rioja, Concha Andreu, has indicated that this new law seeks to avoid "normalising people needing medication to continue living" and that emotions such as sadness and fear don't "become pathologies and become stigmatised".

Whether or not more regions decide to follow La Rioja's lead and create mental health laws of their own remains to be seen. 

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2030, mental health problems will be the main cause of disability in the world and close to 11 percent of the Spanish population consume tranquilisers, relaxants or sleeping pills.  

The Spanish Confederation of Mental Health states that 6.7 percent of the Spanish population is affected by anxiety, exactly the same number of people who also suffer from depression. For both, the cases are more than double in women (9.2 percent) than in men (4 percent).

The confederation states that of the mental health problems in Spain, between 11 and 27 percent can be attributed to working conditions, but that eight out of 10 who suffer from mental health are unemployed. 



The Local Spain 2023/03/17 12:22

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