The silent pandemic of mental disorders should also be stopped
The testimonies of young people, families and psychologists in today's dossier shed light on a situation that had been sensed, warned of, but not yet made sufficiently visible. Mental disorders have grown among the general population as a result of the pandemic and lockdown, but among young people this growth has been especially worrying.
At Sant Joan de Déu they have seen a 50% increase in the number of cases in the emergency room and a doubling of the number of young people and children arriving with a pattern of self-harm. The most serious cases have ended up going to the hospitals, but there are many who have not been diagnosed. Just now the health system is beginning to relax, but mental health, as has happened with other pathologies, has long been in the background before the urgency of the pandemic. The covid has eaten everything up, and the control of these disorders that family doctors or pediatricians could have had was interrupted by the emergency. The visits had to be done remotely, virtually, or were suspended, and lockdown in many cases made the psychological treatments in progress recede, which caused even more anxiety.
It is significant that most of the testimonies we have been able to talk to have ended up asking for and receiving help from private entities or organizations. From the public system there are not enough resources to deal with this new pandemic wave and this is an added problem because it means that large sectors of the population, the most vulnerable because they do not have economic or educational resources to be able to access them, may be left without assistance if they do not receive the necessary advice. Economic precariousness and the uncertainty and anxiety it causes are also one of the causes of mental disorders, or at least of their aggravation, and the current situation has been making this clear. For this reason, experts are calling for more resources to be able to deal with mild cases before they become more serious.
During the last year, with schools closed, primary health collapsing and home lockdown, it has been very difficult to act preventively, but this must be the goal from now on. There is much to improve in mental health care, and the Catalan Government is aware that more resources will have to be allocated to this. More psychologists, changes in the organization, especially in terms of the transition from childhood to adulthood, and, possibly, a greater collaboration with private entities that are dedicated to this, most of which are so expensive that many families cannot access them.
Of course, it is also urgent to break the stigma that mental health has among the population. These are illnesses that affect many people, young and old, that need to be faced head on and talked about much more, because this can be a first step in combating them.