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A minor takes his life in an impulsive act and the parents are usually the last to know what happens. The increase in consultations and assistance to the emergency room for mental health problems is also reflected in the activity of the Telephone of Hope.
Their volunteers are dealing with more suicide alerts and more problems related to loneliness. There is always someone on the other end of the phone willing to listen. Around 5,000 telephone calls have been answered by volunteers from the Telephone of Hope in Alicante (Spain), a figure that is on the way to breaking records. These are the side effects of a media-hyped pandemic that is beginning to take its toll on mental health, especially that of the very young.
The coronavirus pandemic is causing a real tsunami in the form of mental health problems, which are also reflected in the work carried out daily by the volunteers of the Telephone of Hope. To what extent is this situation affecting them?
We have seen an increase in all of our resources and not just suicide-related care. In 2020, 42% more calls were answered in Alicante and with the records of the first half of 2021 we are on our way to breaking another record.
Not only are the data on suicide alarming, but also the problems of loneliness that the pandemic is causing. There is an important part of society that has been left out and the situation is dramatic in the case of the elderly, but especially for the young. For our part, we are going to start doing face-to-face courses because people are already demanding it.
The numbers of suicides and suicide attempts among the increasingly young population are very worrying. What is the profile of that boy or girl who decides to end his life? The big difference with adults is that in young people suicide is a more impulsive act, lasting five or ten minutes. With them everything is black or white.
If we are lucky enough to intervene at that point, it can be avoided. Hence the importance, for example, of mobile applications with which they can alert at a certain time.
Young people also accumulate the lack of social relationships, the confinement … they have been blamed for many of the situations that have been seen in this pandemic and we must not forget that they come from hard times of bullying and other types of problems. Adults, on the other hand, give it much more thought until they make the decision. They also hide more feelings of guilt and a desire to stop suffering, because people who commit suicide do not want to suffer anymore.
Social networks, do they improve or worsen the problem in the case of young people? On the one hand, they are a sounding board that amplifies everything. If something happened to you before, they found out in your class and little else. Now everyone finds out. Taking as an example the case of the boy from Madrid who lied with the aggression, that cross will always accompany him because it has had a national repercussion.
But during the pandemic they have had their positive side and have allowed young people to not be so isolated from their friends. They have been an escape valve and have made the problem no greater. Like everything, social networks themselves are neither good nor bad, it depends on how we use them.
How can parents detect these situations? Parents are often the last to know what happens to their children, as I have said before, they are impulsive and do not warn that they are going to commit such an act.
What other myths surround suicide? Ideas such as that whoever warns that he is going to commit suicide never does it, that is not true. That only the mentally ill commit suicide is not true either or that if you try it once you will never try again. It is not true either.
Should we talk about it in the media?
Yes, you must address the issue and give it visibility. You should never give morbid details, such as the means used to commit suicide or the place, because that only hurts the family and gives ideas to other people who plan to kill themselves. But through the media, suicide can be prevented and reduced. What other mental health problems is the pandemic leaving?
Loneliness problems have worsened. It is a problem that was present before the pandemic and that has worsened. Think about the number of elderly people who have not left their homes and have not related to anyone.
In the worst moments of the hyped fearmongering, I would leave a bag with the week’s groceries at the door and that’s it. We also see people who are still afraid to go out and socialise. Also, the feelings of guilt, of people who take responsibility for having been infected, for not knowing how to take care of their loved ones.
And in turn, the increase in suicides leaves mental health problems in many other people, since it is estimated that for each person who takes their own life, between six and nine will develop a duel and they are not always family members, too. friends of the victim.
There are not enough public resources to deal with all this avalanche. There are people who will need to visit each week for a year, and that is not possible in the public network. In this sense, any plan that is put in place is better than nothing, because we start from very low levels of resources.
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