Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has announced details of a new Mental Health Action Plan, aimed at addressing the increasing numbers of Spaniards suffering from depression and anxiety.
A budget of 100 million euros will target support for the estimated one million people suffering with mental health issues. It is thought that only about half are currently receiving treatment.
There is a particular emphasis on the younger adult population, who were badly impacted by the strict lockdown measures at the start of Covid-19 and who have lived through months of uncertainty around employment and debt.
The Action Plan 2021-2024, launched at a presentation over the weekend, complements the Mental Health Strategy that was approved in 2006.
Speaking about the goals of the new scheme, Sánchez said that it is ‘a strategic document designed by and for mental health professionals and patients. A roadmap that allows us to advance with established steps towards better mental health, in its broadest sense’.
A key part of the scheme’s proposals is to implement a 24-hour free and confidential hotline, designed to specifically support those suffering from suicidal behaviour. The service will allow direct access to professional counsellors and have the capacity for rapid referral to emergency services if required.
Explaining how the service will be implemented, Sánchez stressed the importance of ‘not stigmatising mental disorders as a sign of weakness of those who suffer from them. Making them visible is an example of courage’. He went on to explain that ‘a strong society is the one that is more cohesive, the one that does not exclude, the one that integrates’.
It is thought that almost half of 15 to 29-year-olds admit to having had mental health problems, a fact that Sánchez was keen to highlight, saying ‘the stories and the figures are well known … that affect over seven million young people’.
The details of the plan and how the 100 million euro budget will be spent include measures to be taken both in hospitals and in primary care.
There is also additional support for medical professionals who were on the frontline during the peaks of the pandemic and who have subsequently suffered from mental health issues as a direct result of this experience.
The budget allows for stepping up training and having more trained counsellors available, aimed at reducing the stigmatism of mental health, preventing addictive behaviours and promoting emotional well-being.
Key aspects of this will be focusing on children, adolescents, and other vulnerable groups, such as women and the elderly, along with improving the prevention, detection and care of suicidal behaviour.
Recent data has highlighted the rising numbers of people suffering with their mental health and suicides.
In 2019, there were 3,671 suicides recorded in Spain, and was the primary cause of death among young people after road traffic accidents. It is expected that the data for 2020 will continue to increase.
Summarising the importance of taking action now, Sánchez tweeted that ’10.8% of Spaniards have consumed tranquillisers, relaxants or sleeping pills. 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.’