Child helpline says over half of its ‘suicidal callers’ don’t get proper treatment in Spain

A national helpline for children says only 44% of depressed callers aged between 13 and 17 get proper psychological care.

That’s the conclusion of a Fundacion Anar report into the mental health of children and adolescents in Spain over the last decade.

Official figures from the National Institute of Statistics say there were 314 child suicides in 2020.

In 2021, the Anar helpline assisted 748 adolescents who at the time of their call were trying to end their lives.

Between 2012 and 2022, cases treated for suicidal feelings have multiplied by almost 24 times and suicide attempts by 26.

The helpline analysed the content of the 589,255 calls and related chat messages involving suicidal behaviour of children that they’ve received since 2012.

They say that mental health appointments for youngsters have increased by 128% since 2020, coinciding with the Covid pandemic and the public health system cannot cope.

Fundacion Anar head, Diana Diaz, said: “Referrals from primary care are saturated and testimonies from the children reveal that even in serious situations, appointments are only available in a time span between a fortnight and three months.”

Diaz says the lack of proper psychological treatment is leading to overmedication.

“Both parents and children themselves tell us that they are taking medication without any parallel psychotherapy, due to a lack of resources.”

“Consultations are being replaced by pills and this is serious,” warned Díaz,

She added that suicide is ‘the tip of the iceberg’, but that ‘there is always something behind it and it must be dealt with so that a youngster has the tools to combat his or her feelings’.

The Anar hotline, which has more than 200 psychologists with a high level of specialisation in suicide situations is open 24 hours a day, but Diaz says their service is not a substitute for therapy.

“Our role is to act in serious situations and to alert 112 or the police to make a quick intervention and help the child to get a face-to-face appointment to get help.”

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