SPAIN is grappling with a rise in youth suicides that poses serious questions about the country’s child mental health services, new figures show. 

Last year, 22 youngsters aged 10 to 14 tragically ended their lives – the highest figures since 1991. 

And calls to child helplines have grown nearly five-fold in the space of just four years, from 958 in 2019 to 4,554, according to the Anar Foundation, a non-profit organisation that helps children and adolescents at risk in Spain.

The suffering endured during the pandemic exacerbated issues such as eating disorders and self-harm among youngsters.

Spain’s public healthcare system has struggled to cope with the upsurge, as only one in five trained clinical psychologists are specialised in child and adolescent care – around 540 in total. 

The country’s mental health system has won many accolades for its training and structure, but a painful truth remains: The average ratio of clinical psychologists to minors is 6.5 per 100,000.

However, regional variations are significant. The Basque Country boasts nearly eight experts per capita, while Castilla y León or Andalusia barely scrapes by with two.

These deficiencies persist. Only nine communities have clinical psychologists at the primary level, and outpatient care dominates.

With 86% of professionals dedicated to it, it means that hospital-based youth care remains critically low.

Long waitlists and stretched schedules compound the issue – children often wait months for a consultation, impacting quality and family engagement. 

Experts are advocating for immediate action, demanding more PIR placements (psychology training program) and a specialised child psychology branch. 

Isabel Cuellar, a member of the board of the Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology Section of the Spanish Association of Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology (AEPCP), stressed that valuing public healthcare and increasing investment are essential to prevent chronicity and provide adequate care.


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