The increase in suicides puts Filipinos in Barcelona on guard

  • The community asked the CAP Raval Nord for help, which trained neighborhood leaders to detect the alarm signals

  • The entities warn that the mental health of immigrants is worsening even more than that of the general population

The Filipino community of the Raval was alerted in the middle of last year. In all of 2021, there were five suicides and one attempt in people of this nationality, four of whom resided in the Raval and two, in the Free Zone. It may seem like a small number, but the previous year, in 2020, there was only one, the same as in 2018 and 2017. In 2019 directly there were none. So far in 2022, another one occurred a few weeks ago.

The worsening of mental health is general in the population, but it hits more strongly vulnerable groups such as the immigrants. In the last two years, primary care centers (CAP) have seen a 10% increase in mental health diagnoses in poor neighborhoods, where there is more immigration, despite the fact that throughout Barcelona these have decreased, as citizens have consulted their GPs less as they are focused on covid-19.

The CAPs have seen a 10% increase in mental health diagnoses in poor neighborhoods, where there is more immigration

In the Raval, this number of suicides in a short space of time and in Filipinos (men, especially) youths and with children, raised all alarms. The Equip d’Atenció i Mediació Intercultural i Sociosanitari (Eamiss), which represents the Filipino community in Raval, believes that behind this reality there is a “emotional theme”. Mental health still carries a huge stigma in this population and asking for help from a psychologist is frowned upon. “There is not much talk and the family does not explain it to you. But we believe it is because of the economic crisis,” he explains. Josie Rocafort, President of Eamiss.

Eamiss, overwhelmed by this reality, asked for help from the CAP Raval Nord and together they set up a suicide prevention project among the Filipinos. Is named ‘Impact of a community intervention to prevent suicide in the Philippine community in Barcelona’. In it, a group of 10 people were formed by the CAP, in three sessions held between February and March, to detect, from within the community, who has mental health problems and offer help. They are “reference” people of the neighborhood linked to associations. one of them is Emily Silang, who, in addition to having an insurance company in the neighborhood, is a member of the Philippine Guardians Brotherhood.

“The goal is to identify when a person may be presenting signs of suicide risk. We will do it through associations. We will give this information to all the Filipino community leaders in each association,” Silang explains. She attributes the increase in suicides to “economic reasons”.

A community demand

The CAP Raval Nord nurse Rocio Albuixech highlights that, although with the pandemic there has been an increase in mental health consultations, the idea of ​​creating this project was a “Demand of the Filipino population”. They were the ones who asked the CAP for help. “We had seen, above all, more attempts than previous years. But it was Jossie who asked us if we could do something,” says Albuixech. Doctors hope that this initiative by the Filipinos, who have proactively asked the CAP for help, Serve as an example to other communities.

According to her, a specialist in mental health, the social aspect it is, in recent times, the one with the most risk factors for suicide. “Filipinos are very much into the hostelry, a sector that has been greatly affected by the pandemic,” adds the nurse.

“Here you can find a waiter who in the Philippines is an engineer. But here we work in domestic service or in the hotel industry,” says the Filipino community

The training of these 10 guardians of the Filipino community consisted of equipping them with basic tools for detect warning signs in community members. “For example, know what to ask to that person who is having a bad time. Many times suicide is something impulsive, that’s why it’s important gain time”, Albuixech points out.

The reality that hides behind the Filipino community is very similar to that of the rest of immigrant populations. “We work long hours. You can find a waiter here who is an engineer in the Philippines. But here we work in domestic service, as waiters or as cooks”, explains Rocafort. There is, he continues, a lot of “frustration” in the community; among other things because, in addition to working to survive themselves, they tend to send money to families who still live in their country of origin.

More vulnerability

The covid-19 pandemic has worsened the mental health of the general population, but it has even worsened that of the vulnerable groups. One of them is immigrants. The mental health diagnoses in the neighborhoods of Barcelona with a low socioeconomic status have increased a 10% in the last two years, according to Catalan Society of Family and Community Medicine (Camfic). They are the neighborhoods where there are more immigrant people.

The primary is seeing in immigrants many moderate depressions and generalized anxiety, which need pharmacological treatment

“We, when collecting the data, we do not differentiate between migrant people and people from here. But we have seen that, although in Barcelona the registration of mental health diagnoses in the CAP has decreased in the last two years -as has happened with all pathologies-, in the poorest neighbourhoods, where there are more migrants, they have increased by a 10%,” he says. Iris Alarcon, secretary of the Camfic board.

The patients, explains Alarcón, have consulted their GP less, hence this decrease in diagnoses. The primary has been overturned with the covid-19. “However, in neighborhoods with migrant people there is more pathology and they have had to consult more. Above all we see moderate depression and generalized anxiety, who need pharmacological treatment,” says Alarcón.

The precariousness of life

The Day Hospital for adolescents of the Sant Pere Claver Foundation, where he 50% of patients are immigrants, have seen how, so far this year, 65% of its young people have had a suicide attempt. This percentage was 60% in all of 2021. “So far this pandemic, we see more suicide attempts, especially in girls. Also more eating disorders, sleep disturbances, school absenteeism, irritability and social withdrawal…”, points Sonia Soriano, clinical psychologist and coordinator of this hospital.

The institution notes that the “economic difficulties” increase the incidence of suicide gestures. “We see recent migration processes. They are people who have just arrived in Barcelona, ​​there are families with economic burdens”, he says for his part Bern Villarreal, social worker and coordinator of the Institut Docent i Recerca de Sant Pere Claver. The environment (the job insecurity, the living place) influence, both coincide, although other factors do as well, such as the socialization Hello lack of a future perspective.

The impact of the pandemic on mental health has been greater in immigrant women: they have been on the front line of care and are the ones who work the most in the underground economy

The Mental Health Care Program for Immigrated Persons (Satmi), Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu, which has been caring for immigrants since 1997, also reports a worsening of living conditions in recent years. “There is more people on the street, more residence permits… If the pandemic has impacted the entire population, imagine the people who have migrated,” says the psychiatrist Yolanda Osorio, one of the founders of Satmi.

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Satmi cares for immigrants who suffer from some psychiatric pathology. “Have passed very traumatic trips and, once they arrive here, they have no access to housing or papers. They end up manifesting health problems. appear more mental suffering and, within them, suicide”, adds Osorio. The Satmi is seeing, above all, depressive pictures, somatizations and some psychotic pictures.

In addition to migrants, the impact of the pandemic on mental health has been greater in women. They have been in the first line of care and have had a heavy work overload. In addition, immigrant women are the ones who develop the most jobs in the submerged economy. “With the pandemic they have been left unprotected, without financial support,” says the director of the Fundació Surt, Sir Vilardell.

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