Mental health professionals demand more resources to treat teens
Benito Menni, Catalonia's only public center for subacute patients, overwhelmed by elevated need for care
The Benito Menni center in Sant Boi de Llobregat, near Barcelona, is home to Catalonia and Spain's sole public mental health crisis unit for teens and subacute patients.
With 50 beds – 25 for acute patients and 25 for subacute patients – professionals attempt to address severe mental health issues amongst 12- to 18-year-olds.
Patients with serious illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder as well as depression or anxiety – often aggravated by drugs, alcohol, or parental neglect – are treated at Benito Menni, where professionals have also noticed an increase in mobile phone, social media, or videogame addictions.
While the center aims to ease their reinsertion into society, it is not, however, an easy task, especially due to what workers describe as a lack of resources.
As the only public center in Spain with a unit for subacute patients, the waitlist at Benito Menni is very long. "Many teens have to wait in the emergency room before being hospitalized," says clinical psychologist María José Muñoz. "This makes their symptoms worsen and makes it take longer for them to get better."
Both Muñoz and María Martín, a psychiatrist and the teen ward coordinator, believe more public centers with subacute patient units are needed to meet the demand for care.
They also believe more mental health resources are needed within the community at large: when families cannot pay for private care for their teens once they leave Benito Menni, they often relapse. This, they say, became more apparent following the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic, which has had "de-stabilizing" effects on people's wellbeing.
"Resources are needed to detect disorders early on before they worsen and become chronic," says Martín.
"Problems begin as soon as they are discharged," Muñoz adds. "In many cases, there is no continuity to our work within the community."