File image. / JUAN MARÍN

Number of people at risk of suicide grows in Malaga province since pandemic

Coronavirus restrictions have had an impact on mental health with calls to the medical emergency number 061 up by 25 per cent

MATÍAS STUBER MALAGA.

Doctors and psychologists have been warning about the mental health effects of the pandemic since its outset.

Now the numbers also corroborate the fact that the restrictions imposed to curb the advance of the coronavirus have had a severe impact on the mental health of the population in Malaga province.

The 061 telephone number for urgent health care demands in Andalucía, received 6,309 calls between 2019 and 2021, which represents an increase of 25 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic years.

The data provided by 061 to SUR shows a continued escalation for the province, starting in 2020 and reaching its peak in 2021. In the last year of "normality", 2019, there were 1,887 calls, rising to 2,066 calls in 2020, and jumping to 2,356 calls in 2021.

"These are calls made both by the people themselves who experience these suicidal intentions, as well as by family members who see that a loved one is going through this problem. We also count communications from the Local Police officers," said Lola del Valle, spokeswoman for 061 in Malaga.

"In 2019, resources were activated in 1,394 cases. The rest were attended to by phone call. Mobilising resources means that, after receiving the call in the coordination room, and detecting that the situation requires face-to-face assistance, personnel are mobilised. In 2020, resources were mobilised on 1,423 occasions and in 2021, a total of 1,613 times," added Lola del Valle.

Noelia Espinosa, a psychologist with Alhelí, a Malaga association for suicide prevention, said: "The pandemic has exacerbated pathologies that were already evident". Espinosa said that the average number of suicides at a national level has increased from ten to eleven a day. The Alhelí psychologist said at risk groups included young people and the elderly. "We are talking about young people between 15 and 29 years of age and older people over 70. They have suffered the most from loneliness due to isolation."

HELPLINES

Telephone 024: the Spanish government´s free 24-hour 365-day helpline run by the Red Cross. Real time telephone interpreting service for non-Spanish speakers.

Samaritans in Spain: Free helpline in English for anyone feeling desperate, anxious or alone: Freephone 900525100 between 10am and 10pm or email pat@samaritansinspain.com. www.samaritansinspain.com

Anar: Helpline and chat for children and teens (Spanish). 900 202 010 www.anar.org