4.9% of Spanish adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 have attempted suicide, almost 21% have wished they were dead, around 17% have had thoughts of committing suicide and 7.5% have even planned it in sometime. In addition, 5.4% would have a “high” risk of suicidal behavior. These are some of the disturbing conclusions of the PsiCE (Psychology in Educational Contexts) study, prepared by the Psychofoundation and the General Council of Psychology of Spain, to “unravel and analyze” the state of mental health and the level of psychological well-being of students in schools in Asturias, La Rioja, Galicia, Murcia, Andalusia, Valencia, Madrid, and Castilla La Mancha.
Presented this Thursday in Madrid by its principal investigator, Eduardo Fonseca, and the general coordinator of the research, Pilar Calvo, it is the largest study carried out in Spain on child and adolescent mental health and the efficacy of psychological interventions in school contexts. A total of 8,749 adolescents, aged between 11 and 18, participated in it, approximately 10% of whom had “seriously thought” about ending their lives in the last two weeks before being surveyed.
This has been specified by Fonseca, who has also indicated that 12% of the sample manifested emotional and behavioral problems of some seriousness, 6% reported “serious symptoms of depression” and up to 26% presented “symptoms of depression of moderate intensity”. ”.
After recalling that in 2021 in Spain 4,003 people committed suicide, according to the latest data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), and the rate of suicidal behavior in young people increased, Fonseca explained that 14% of those surveyed reported “symptoms of severe anxiety”, while 20% reported “moderate anxiety symptoms”. In addition, she has warned that women indicated greater emotional, anxious and depressive difficulties and suicidal behavior compared to men.
Benjamín Ballesteros, technical director and spokesman for the ANAR Foundation, which helps children and adolescents at risk, says, in conversation with this newspaper, that the figures do not surprise him. “These are very strong data, but unfortunately they do not surprise me, because they coincide with ours. We have a very serious problem.” In 2022, ANAR attended to 4,554 cases of minors with suicidal behavior, which includes both the idea and the attempt. Of these, 3,279 had suicidal ideas and 1,275 attempted it. In the last decade, this type of consultation, says his spokesperson, has multiplied by 35.
“Throughout these years, we have realized that there are two blocks of problems: 60.9% of the children who called us were victims of violence (intrafamily physical and psychological abuse, bullying, sexual assault… ), and 27.4% suffered from mental health disorders”, Ballesteros breaks down, noting that “the main predictor of suicidal behavior is self-harm”, related to anxiety problems, sadness or depression and mental disorders. feeding.
A pending subject
In the opinion of the General Council of Psychology of Spain, the results obtained, after almost two years of work, “seem to show an unquestionable truth”: the fact that the mental health of young Spaniards, children and adolescents, “is a subject The education system is pending, it is getting worse and our minors are having a hard time”.
In this sense, Fonseca has specified that researchers have tried to “take a snapshot of the state of affairs in Spain” and implement psychological interventions to prevent such problems in educational contexts, in addition to improving or optimizing emotional and social adjustment, learning processes and academic performance. All of this, with the aim of “providing them with tools and socio-emotional skills to understand what emotions are”, in addition to providing them with “regulation and management skills”.
In his opinion, “one way to prevent psychological problems is to talk about it”, which is why he has advocated for “emotional literacy”, convinced that “talking about suicidal behavior truthfully and scientifically prevents it” and that “The first line of intervention is to reduce the stigma and taboo by talking about it away from sensationalism.” “You can’t prevent something you don’t talk about,” he said.
Increased problem with the pandemic
In light of these results, Calvo has warned that this problem has “increased” with the pandemic, when an increase in self-harm, risk of suicide, anxiety or depression has been observed, which, in his opinion, represents “a challenge”, also taking into account that anxiety and depression “interfere in the learning process and significantly affect the socialization process”. “If we want an educational system in which to learn and be well, we have to do something”, he has sentenced.
The expert also recalled that “psychological problems, specifically anxiety and depression disorders, and suicidal behavior, are among the leading causes of associated disability and disease burden worldwide among young people.” “They are one of the main challenges that family, educational, health and social systems have to face,” she stated. He specified that from an economic point of view, the annual loss of human capital due to mental health problems in people from 0 to 19 years of age in the world is 387,200 million dollars (357,600 million euros), of which 304,200 (280,900 ) millions are linked to anxiety disorders and depressive disorders, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
In addition, he has stressed that half of mental disorders begin before the age of 18 and 35% before the age of 14, and has warned that adolescents “are crying out for us to listen to them, to be close so that they can communicate and share their emotions” and, in this way, “to be able to detect problems before they increase”.
On this point, he has emphasized that, according to the WHO, educational centers “are especially suitable environments for the promotion of psychological well-being” and has called for measures such as “reinforcing” educational and professional guidance and incorporating psychology professionals into contexts educational programs to “attend” a “problem” for which teachers “are not trained” and for which families are “disoriented and very concerned”.
“If it is done at the right time, we can stop any problem”, he has ruled, while indicating that, according to data from the 2020-2021 academic year, 7,000 educational psychologists would be necessary in public and subsidized centers and he has acknowledged that he expects the study “provokes society and administrations to reflect”.
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