Spain’s Ministry of Health has launched a Free 24-hour helpline for people experiencing suicidal thoughts and their families.
The specialised helpline was launched today, Tuesday, May 10, 2022, with the motto “Llama a la vida” (Call to life).
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced last October that a 100 million euro package would be put together to finance mental health provisions in Spain, as during the pandemic the public health sector struggled to cope with the rising demand for mental health services.
In the same month, Sánchez tweeted “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.”
This very welcomed new service is part of that package and by simply dialling 024, anyone with suicidal thoughts or behaviour and their relatives will be able to get confidential help 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
The funds will be used to help train professionals, fight stigmatisation, ensure early detection, prevent suicide and promote emotional wellbeing.
At present, 11 people every day in Spain take their own lives, that is sadly one life is lost every two hours.
Suicide has been the major cause of unnatural death since 2008 when quite astonishingly more people died from taking their life than dying in a road traffic accident.
According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), there were 3,941 cases of suicide in 2020, the highest number on record and a 5.7% increase from 2019.
These statistics have led the Spanish government to take drastic steps toward breaking down the taboo that surrounds suicidal behaviour and it is hoped that this new service, which will be run by the Cruz Roja (Red Cross), will help save many lives.
Fátima Caballero, the Red Cross health director will manage the suicide prevention line and has said that a team of “qualified and multidisciplinary” professionals “will provide response, prevention and emotional support” to people who are thinking about taking their own lives, are trying to do so, and assist their families.”
In fact, the 024 Helpline team will have one person in charge of the service, with 11 supervisors and 26 operators, all of whom will have experience and knowledge in managing this type of intervention.
“If the risk is considered high, they will alert the emergency services,” she explained.
Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias said that the team behind the suicide prevention helpline will speak several languages, but didn’t specify if this would include English.
“Suicide is a threat that has been silenced for too long,” Darias said, the hotline is “a measure that will help many people” and will help “end stigmas and taboos” around suicide.
The OECD previously warned of the unprecedented impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on people's mental health, the impact of which is still not yet completely understood.
Statistics show that 5.8% of the Spanish population suffers from anxiety, and a not dissimilar percentage suffers from depression.
In addition, at least one million Spaniards have a “serious mental health disorder” and only half of them receive treatment.
The suicide prevention hotline will see Spain follow the example of other European countries that already offer professional help to anyone who has thought of or attempted to take their own life. Someone to just listen to them and if necessary activates a response in coordination with the emergency services.
Learn more about the other emergency numbers in Spain.
Image Credit: Ministerio de Sanidad