Spain faces historic peak in child suicides without resources

What goes wrong when two 12-year-old minors in Sallent (Bages) attempt to commit suicide by jumping off a balcony and one of them succeeds (the other remains in hospital)? “Everything. Fallan the population for lack of awareness, the media for living with their backs turned to the problems, the healthcare system, the educational, the social services.” answers unequivocally Andoni Anseán, president of the Spanish Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide. However, in the specific case of this particular case, it does recognize that it is. “highly unusual.” for two sisters to commit suicide at the same time. Anseán, an expert in health and hospital management, calls for the deceased woman to undergo a psychological autopsy through those close to him to find out what has happened.

And “all fails” precisely at a time when Spain is experiencing a historic peak of suicides in children under 15 years. The data say so. The most recent, dating from the past December 19 and belong to National Institute of Statistics (INE), are alarming: in 2021 (last year for which figures are available) 22 children under the age of 15 committed suicide, a 57% more than in 2020 (when a total of 14).

Although suicide has a multicausal origin and cannot be explained only from the mental health perspective, these high figures reflect the impact that the mental health pandemic is also having on children. And all this without Spain having a state suicide prevention plan. At Catalonia there is a prevention plan and the Codi Risc Suïcidi, a protocolized program of assistance and preventive actions against suicidal behavior.

“The system has never been overly concerned with the problem of suicidal behavior. Y we throw our hands up in the air when it happens. The case of the twins from Sallent is especially striking so tragic, by incomprehensible. But we have a pending work for centuries,” explains Anseán. “There is the prejudice that those who commit suicide do so because they want to. However, when it occurs in children under 12 years of age, this argument is a bit of a joke,” he adds. He alludes to the “increase like never before” of child suicides (“in 2021 there were two a month in Spain”, precise).

No one knows exactly what has happened in the case of the twins from Sallent. A family member pointed out that they suffered bullying at school because of their Argentine accent, which could have gone further when one of them, according to the family and school environment, asked to be bullied. to be treated as a boy at school. The family was followed up by the social services of the city council. “You don’t know because no one is interested in the causes. There is a thing called psychological autopsy and that we ask that it be mandatory at least in suicides of children under 15 years of age,” defends Anseán.

The psychological autopsy

The psychological autopsy, led by the Institute of Legal Medicine and in which forensic scientists, judges and police officers participate, consists of the access to medical records of patients and in interviews with families and professionals who have cared for them. “Try to look for what might have happened,” explains the president of the Spanish Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Being trans Is not the explanation for everything. Suicide cannot be reduced to a single cause; rather, it must be to be assessed as a whole.” he goes on to say in allusion to the doubts about the gender identity that had been expressed by the deceased girl from Sallent. Nor should it be reduced to issues such as mental health. “Suicidal behavior is not only a mental health problem. The mental problem is part of the possible conditioning factors, but it is not the only one. Therefore, not only psychiatrists have to address suicidal behavior,” says Anseán. According to him, it is an “integral” problem that must be addressed jointly by the whole of society, including the educational, health and even cultural levels.

28,000 Sos of minors

According to updated data from the telephone 024, Since this service was launched last May, the following have been registered more than 93,000 calls, of which 30% (almost 28,000) are from individuals under 30 years of age.

The Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, explained this Thursday that the Mental Health Strategy has been updated, that “had not been done for 12 years”, although no specific anti-suicide plan has been activated.

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