The number of people needing treatment with antidepressants fell slightly in 2020. | MDB

The coordinator of mental health in the Balearics, Oriol Lafau, says that the mental health condition of people who were suffering in 2019 has deteriorated. This is reflected by an increase in doses of medication. However, there was not an increase last year in the number of people being treated for mental health conditions.

In 2020, 191,206 people in the Balearics were treated with antidepressants or anxiolytics. This number was in fact slightly down from 2019 - by 0.4%. However, the prescription of antidepressant doses rose 5.6% and anxiolytics 4.8%.

The figures are both surprising and positive. Demand for treatment had been expected to increase significantly. But this didn't happen. Lafau believes that people have been able to cope very well emotionally with the pandemic. There has been little need to call on the mental health services.

However, he suggests that pandemic fatigue and financial difficulties are likely to change this situation. "Within a few months, things will change and we will see an increase. But for now, there hasn't been, and I am quite surprised." A fourth wave of infection, he believes, could be decisive. "Emotional pain is unbearable, but people don't expect to be treated."

Lafau distinguishes between two distinct stages of the pandemic. The first was the confinement (lockdown) of the original state of alarm, when there was no increase in the number of cases and in fact the number of people going to emergencies fell by a half. From the end of June, though, there was an increase in cases of people suffering with anxiety and from depression. For Lafau, this was a sign of incipient social and economic crisis, which is now affecting people more and their mental health.

The financial crisis that started in 2008, Lafau points out, led to a 13% increase in mental health appointments. He expects that there will eventually be a much higher increase this time.