Anxiety and depression are the main threats to young people from Murcia today, just as alcohol and drugs were decades ago. The data pointing to the need to act to protect the good emotional state of minors is overwhelming
We’ve got a major impact problem that we’ve been reporting in THE TRUTH for months. A silent epidemic of pandemic dimensions and whose most vulnerable victims are adolescents. It is a massive mental health crisis that we were not prepared for and that is overwhelming families and public emergency services. According to the latest annual report from the National Health System, four in 10 Murcian before Covid had mental health problems, such as anxiety or depressive symptoms. After the arrival of the corona virus, the numbers are already getting worse. The Applied Psychology Department of the University of Murcia, which cares for UMU students and staff, has seen the number of patients with anxiety-depressive symptoms and phobias double. The situation is especially worrying because mental health problems are occurring at an increasingly younger age. Two in ten people treated in outpatient mental health centers in the Region in 2021 were under the age of 16. A total of 14,266 children and adolescents were served. And in hospital classrooms, the number of students with long-term pathologies due to mental disorders tripled in two years. Last year, one thousand five hundred minors passed through this service, which is due to lack of resources.
The avalanche of business is also reflected in the growth of the waiting list in the mental health network to deal with cases of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm, problems identified by the directors of the educational centers, surpassed by incidents in the classrooms. which have grown enormously in the past year. A guide and training so that teachers know how to respond to self-harm is the answer from the Ministry of Education. An inadequate response, left to the teachers, without the intervention of specialized professionals in the centers, as denounced by the College of Psychologists.
It is not, far from it, an exclusive problem of the Region. Spain is the European country where adolescents have more of these conditions. Anxiety and depression have become the biggest threat to young people’s health, as was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs decades ago. The Anar Foundation, which runs a chat to help minors, assured a few days ago that the number of phone calls from minors with suicidal thoughts has multiplied by 12, from 298 in 2012 to 3,665 in 2021. Unfortunately, the number of suicides in Spain doubled in 2020 under the 15 years.
a global crisis
The crisis is global. In the United States, as reported this week by The New York Times, suicide rates, which had been stable between 2000 and 2007, have risen nearly 60%. One in ten young people show symptoms of anxiety, while emergency care for minors’ self-injury continues to grow. The debate there today centers on the shortage of psychiatric beds for young people requiring hospitalization, saturating minors’ emergency rooms with suicidal tendencies, without the ability to refer them to specialized units.
What is going on in the minds of our young people? What Causes Similar Effects in Adolescents in New York and Murcia? The studies are still in their infancy and do not provide conclusive results. Sometimes they are contradictory. Adolescent mental health is a complex phenomenon. Little research has been done and not enough money has been spent on it. Some experts point out that the diagnosis of anxiety and depression in adolescents started recently and do not rule out that this phenomenon may have gone unnoticed until recently. But this hypothesis does not explain the increase in children entering the emergency room after injuries have occurred. The role of social networks is often mentioned. The evidence is not very convincing, but several studies agree that children who spend more time in front of the computer, sleep less, exercise less and have less personal contact with other boys and girls their age are particularly vulnerable, in a lifetime. where conviviality is crucial. Covid has not helped. On the contrary. Curfews, lockdowns and quarantines have affected the emotional well-being of our teenagers, who have been unable to live some of the best years of their childhood to the fullest. Too much stress and too little reward in exchange for complying with the strict isolation rules.
We are social animals and it is in adolescence when personality is explored and cemented. The lack of contact with others, loneliness and the effect of social networks on the development of one’s own personality have taken their toll on some minors who have been connected to the Internet for longer than recommended. According to the latest survey on drug use in secondary education in the region, 48.1% of male students in the Murcia region aged 14-18 regularly visit adult websites with pornographic or violent content. Given all of the above, it is not surprising that the level of tolerance to frustration has dropped, leaving minors with a clear predisposition to suffer from these symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Stigma, research and help
The flip side is that this mental health crisis comes at a historic moment when the social stigma that existed decades ago has virtually disappeared, making it possible to address these issues within many families with a degree of self-evidence. Completely breaking through that invisible barrier that helps young people improve their emotional responses is now considered a priority goal. UNICEF, which has included mental health for the first time in its global diagnoses, is right to recommend measures that improve the links between research and medical care for these minors. Because the truth is that we still don’t know what works, in what context and why in the treatment of these young people. National and regional authorities are aware of this serious problem and have promised ambitious plans, although they are not yet in place. We’d all better not fall asleep.
Source: La Verdad