Spain in Therapy

Since the beginning of the pandemic, anxiety and depression are four times more prevalent amongst the Spanish populations


We are in a bad way. Mental health professionals have never been so busy. In Spain, 41.9% of the population has suffered sleep problems since the start of the pandemic and 38.7% have felt tired or without energy. More than twice as many psychoactive drugs have been prescribed than before, especially anxiolytics, antidepressants and sleep inducers. 35.1% of Spaniards admit that they have cried in the last year and a half. All according to the latest survey by the Sociological Research Center (CIS).

Meta studies published in international journals offer similar results: cases of major depression and anxiety disorder in the world have increased by 28% and 26% (The Lancet) and post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression were, respectively , five, four and three times more frequent than what the World Health Organization (Psychiatry Research) usually reports.

More and more people are coming for consultations (according to the CIS, 6.4% of the population has seen a mental health professional since the start of the pandemic, 43.7% for anxiety and 35.5% by depression). What is happening here? What type of cases are therapists encountering?

Symptoms are wide ranging and include cases such as a nurse on sick leave with post-traumatic stress (14.5% of health workers suffer a disabling mental disorder and 22.2% post-traumatic stress from the pandemic, according to studies from the Hospital del Mar, in Barcelona and the CIBER). A working mother with anxiety (22% of Spanish women reported having had panic or anxiety attacks, according to the CIS). A child obsessed with the virus (52.2% of parents noticed changes in the behaviour of their children). A depressed young man who belongs to the generation that has most frequented mental health services. An anorexic, a couple in crisis, a covid survivor …

The wave of mental illness affects us all, although not equally. The blow has been harder for women and young people. People with fewer resources suffer more. And they have fewer solutions: “Many people come to the limited public mental health services affected by the economic crisis, and they are precisely those who have the best chance of ending up on medication, since they cannot afford a private therapist”, says Juan Antequera, clinical psychologist in the public health sector.  Three times as many psychotropic drugs have been prescribed to those who identify themselves as “lower class” (CIS).Specialists criticize the limited attention given by the administrations.

Spain dedicates barely 4% of the investment in healthcare to mental health (the European average is 5.5% and there are countries that reach 10%) and in the public network there are 11 psychiatrists for every 100,000 inhabitants, half that in France or Germany (the latest draft of the general mental health law contemplates that there are 18 psychiatrists for every 100,000 inhabitants). There are even fewer clinical psychologists: six per 100,000 inhabitants (three times less than the European average). Psychiatrist Juan Luis Mendívil states: “The pandemic has made visible a mental health problem that was already there, reducing the taboo that existed around it.” In the words of Juan Antequera: “The crisis has allowed us to remove the Instagram filter, it is no longer so embarrassing to come out of the emotional closet.” “We will have to see,” he adds, “how long it takes us to forget it.”

If you feel you are suffering and would like to speak to a professional, you can find a list of English-speaking Therapists and Psychiatrists in the ESHA Spain business directory


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