The pandemic has caused an increase in depressions and the problems of mental health, not only in adults, also in minors. The virus and associated restrictions have caused increased concerns, fears and unhappiness among children and adolescents, especially in those families with low income and in which some of their members have lost their job. In fact, in 2020, 61 minors committed suicide in Spain and a 3% of children and adolescents have had suicidal thoughts this year, according to Save the Children's report 'Grow Healthy (Mind)'.
To have reliable data on the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of minors, the NGO has carried out a survey among 2,000 parents that clones the 2017 National Health Survey, which contains the latest official data. And the comparison shows that emotional illnesses have tripled. Specifically, mental disorders such as depression or anxiety they have grown from a prevalence of 1.1% of children between 4 and 14 years of age to 4%. And conduct disorders, such as attention deficit or hyperactivity, from 2.5% to 7%. Furthermore, the incidence of these problems is four times higher (13% vs. 3%) in low-income households.
The survey has also detected that if in 2017 there were 19% of children who said they had Many worries, the current percentage is up to 30%. And unhappiness has risen from 8.4% to 18.1%. As Andrés Conde, general director of Save the Children has underlined, "children live from social interaction and school closings almost six months and the economic uncertainty at home and the fear of contracting the disease in themselves or those around them has had a very strong impact on the mental health "of the little ones.
Still, there are large territorial differences, which the study does not analyze in depth. But it has detected that Catalonia, followed by Madrid and Galicia, have a higher prevalence than that which would correspond to them due to their population weight.
All this has meant that in 2020 suicide, which is the most dramatic outcome of mental illness, was the leading cause of death among minors in the first six months of the year and the second from July to December 2020, after traffic accidents. Still, fortunately, rates in Spain are below the European average.
The problem is that the health system, which was already underfunded with psychologists and psychiatrists before the pandemic, is not enough to detect and care for all the children who need help. For example, if 93% of conduct disorders were detected in 2017, the percentage has now dropped to 75%. For this reason, Save the Children asks the Government for efficient public policies, such as doubling the number of specialized professionals or creating a exclusive mental health care phone for childhood and adolescence.