A new campaign to tackle mental health issues as cases quadruple

WITH almost a fourfold increase in cases of suicides, attempted suicide and self-harm among youngsters, the regional Education Ministry has launched the Som Imprescindible campaign to tackle the rise in post-pandemic mental health problems.

According to ministry figures reported by Cadena Ser radio on Wednesday, there were 480 cases of suicide and self-harm recorded across the region in the 2018-2019 academic year. Last year that figure rose to 1,600.

Director general of Educational Inclusion, Raquel Andrés, with students from IES Arabí Secondary School in l’Alfàs del Pi (GVA)

The Som Imprescindible programme will begin this academic year with students from 2nd and 4th of ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education) thus reaching almost 110,000 teenagers in the region’s secondary schools. By province that equates to 12,968 students from Castellón, 56,738 from Valencia and 40,218 from Alicante. Next year those who are in 1st and 3rd of ESO will have the opportunity of taking part in the programme.

A team of 50 psychologists will coordinate with management teams at the region’s 716 publicaly-funded schools and w will then be distributed to interact in each class in two-hour workshop sessions.

The director general of Educational Inclusion, Raquel Andrés, who presented the programme on Wednesday, explained: “The dynamics of the work with the students will allow them to feel like protagonists and to express issues related to mental health in a safe and relaxed context. In addition, it will allow for the detection of intentions and needs for individual accompaniment”.

She continued: “We fully address the mental health of teenage students and empower them. This year we are activating it in the classroom with the help of psychologists and specific guides to look at a subject that should by no means be taboo: mental health and how to avoid self-harming thoughts and behaviours among our adolescent students”.

She added that “the programme offers elements and resources to adolescent students so that they are aware that each and every one of them is important to our society”.

She also stressed that the problem is by no means unique to Valencia or even Spain. She said: “this is part of a global trend, to which a central element has been added: the emotional after-effects left by the hard times of the pandemic and its repercussions on adolescents, who for two very hard years saw their youth hampered”.

The programme also has a music video that will reach all Valencian secondary schools. This video clip features students from the IES Arabí Secondary School in l’Alfàs del Pi and the music group MO’Roots.

School strike for mental health

Meanwhile El Sindicato de Estudiantes (Students’ Union) has called a general strike on Thursday, not only in Valencia but across the country, in defense of mental health, as well as calling for free university education.

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