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'Mental Health and COVID-19' event at Moncloa Palace

The Government unveils the 2021-2024 Mental Health and COVID-19 Action Plan to address the impact of the pandemic

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Saturday 9 October 2021

In his speech, Pedro Sánchez gave some data on mental health in our country. "The fact that 10.8% of the Spanish population has taken tranquillisers, relaxants or sleeping pills and 4.5% have taken antidepressants or stimulants in the last few days says a lot about the state of health of our society and its structural problems," he stressed. "We have to analyse them and confront them with all the responsibility and power that the state has, and also with the support of scientific societies. Our responsibility is to act," he said.

Moving from debate to action

The president explained that "we have moved from silence to debate, and from debate we have to move to action". "We must provide an immediate response to those with mental health problems. But we must also open a social debate on the deep and long-standing root causes of mental health disorders.

For all of these reasons, the head of the Executive pointed to mental health as "a priority for this Government" and stated that "only through social awareness and health and political commitment can we face this great challenge that lies ahead of us".

For her part, the Minister for Health, Carolina Darias, has focused on the impact of the pandemic on mental health. "Multiple studies indicate that these consequences have been significant and will be with us for years to come".

Darias pointed out that Covid patients and their families, women, children, people with fewer resources and health workers were the groups whose mental health suffered the most. "Behind this data there are people who suffer from the illness and the stigma, because we talk normally about any illness in our body, but we don't do it that way, with that normality.

"We have to update all our tools to be able to respond to present and future challenges from a cross-cutting and public health approach," she explained. "Our aim is to intensify our efforts to make the slogan chosen by the World Health Organization for 10 October come true: Mental health care for all. Let's make it a reality. This is our commitment and our determination to achieve a full and healthy life".

The President of the Government of Spain also highlighted the importance of socio-economic determinants in mental health. "Living conditions, job insecurity and uncertainty about the future increase the risk of anxiety, distress, depression or more serious disorders. As he explained, young people, the elderly, women and people with disabilities are the population groups whose health has been most affected over the last year. "The impact of crises on the most vulnerable groups is always worse. The gaps are widening".

100 million to address the impact of COVID-19

The 2021-2024 Mental Health and COVID-19 Action Plan, presented today, complements the Mental Health Strategy adopted in 2006. Since 2019, the Government has been promoting its renewal, with the participation of experts and people with mental illness. It is "a strategic document designed by and for Mental Health professionals and patients. A roadmap that allows us to move forwards with solid steps towards better mental health, in its broadest sense", the president stressed.

This strategy will now be reinforced by the 2021-2024 Mental Health and COVID-19 Action Plan, which will have 100 million euros allocated from the Government of Spain and is being implemented "in response to the emergency caused by the impact of the COVID pandemic on Mental Health and in response to the Opinion of the Reconstruction Commission". Its specific actions "will be, as always, the result of the consensus of the Institutional Committee and endorsed by the Interterritorial Council", as the President of the Government of Spain explained.

The improvement of Mental Health Care at all levels of the National Health System - both in hospital and primary care - is one of the main measures included in the new plan, together with the promotion of Specialised Health Care Training in mental health, awareness raising and the fight against stigmatisation, the prevention of addictive behaviours, the promotion of emotional well-being - focusing on children, adolescents and other vulnerable groups such as women and the elderly - and the improvement of prevention, detection and care of suicidal tendencies.

Speciality in child and adolescent psychiatry. Suicide prevention

During the event, Pedro Sánchez announced the incorporation of the child and adolescent psychiatry speciality into specialised healthcare training. "We are going to do this by adding these places to those already offered previously," he said.

The head of the Executive also reported on the launch of a 24-hour, free and confidential information telephone number for professional attention and support in the face of suicidal tendencies, with the capacity for rapid referral to the corresponding emergency services in a crisis situation.

Pedro Sánchez has stressed the importance of "not stigmatising mental disorders as a sign of weakness for those who suffer from them. Making them visible is an example of bravery and courage. Because no one is safe from them. And because a strong society is one that is more cohesive, one that does not exclude, one that integrates".

The president ended by thanking the participants for their presence and work at the event, "very influential people, especially for young people, who have come to make mental health problems visible" and who "turn their experiences into messages of social awareness, commitment and overcoming" to "make our society better and freer". "To them, thank you," he concluded.

Non official translation