Sunday, August 14

Anxiety and depression: the mental health of the palm trees, in check after 43 days in the shadow of the volcano

In the shadow of the La Palma volcano there is a population of more than 80,000 people who “has completely broken down.” The eruption does not give up and after 43 days, the state of anxiety and stress coexists in a routine that has disappeared for all, affected or not. Many children have changed schools or have returned to their countries of origin. Some businesses have closed, others plan to do so out of fatigue, and more than a thousand families have now been sheltered in the homes of loved ones or sheltered in tourist or social health establishments for six weeks. As long as the eruption does not stop and the sound of the explosions continues to surround everything, the neighbors will continue sleepwalking, in a kind of nightmare that does not know when it will end.

Rosa has been living on La Palma for five years. She moved there from Madrid for love, but the catastrophe has overtaken her. She hasn’t lost anything. He keeps his business and his home, but from his home in Los Llanos de Aridane he can see the volcano every day. “At night and during the day, when I go to my room, I walk down the hall and see what he’s doing,” he says. Since September 19, he feels his anxiety has increased and he is unable to sleep.

Since the eruption began, the psychologist Estefanía Martín has been offering free accompaniment to all people who have directly or indirectly suffered the impact of the volcano. It is not necessary to have lost anything to be able to resort to the free psychological assistance that is offered at the Casa Massieu in Los Llanos de Aridane both in person and by phone. “There are people who call us for having lost their home, but there are also many others who are overcome by the constant noise of the volcano,” says the specialist.

Rosa is also sometimes frustrated when she realizes that she can’t help everyone. However, the hairdresser that it has in the commercial area of ​​the municipality serves as a therapy space for many palm trees. “Some clients say that they lost the house, and another responds that she has lost the farm. Other times we put on some music or watch Save me and get distracted, ”he says. At other times, you can’t even go to work. “I am not used to this. I have not grown up with stories of other eruptions ”.

In these 43 days, Martín has detected an increase in anxiety and depression among the people he attends. In the case of children, some have stopped talking or just want to talk to their mothers, and others have panic attacks when they hear the word volcano. Yomaira, a neighbor from Todoque who has lost her home, has a two-year-old son, and has seen how her attitude has changed since they had to be evicted due to the threat of laundry. At first, she and the boy’s father tried to normalize the situation, even showing him images of the eruption. However, the minor no longer wants to know anything about the volcano. When passing near him with the car, he prefers to look the other way: “I don’t want to see him anymore.” Meanwhile, her mother works in a pharmacy, and has seen an increase in purchases of sleeping pills or headaches among people of all ages.

Monica and Ana are teachers at CEIP La Laguna, a pioneer in Spain in working on emotional education. His school, like three other schools, has been buried by lava. In six days they have had to set up a new center in a socio-cultural space. All the families that send their children there are evicted and many of them have lost their homes. Both teachers have detected overwhelming support among the students themselves. “They reach out and say to themselves:” I’m very sorry for what happened to you, “they say. In addition, the work of so many years allows children to be able to express how they feel and to identify their emotions.

However, the psychologist Estefanía Martín warns of a new type of harassment, in which many minors call their classmates who have lost their home “orphans”. “We are also working with teachers so that they are attentive to these comments,” he says.


The psychologist has detected an increase in suicidal thoughts among all her assistances. “There are many people who come and confess that they no longer see the point of living.” With data from October 9, the Esperanza Telephone (928/922 33 40 50) has stated that calls increased by 20% during the first three weeks of the emergency on La Palma. The mental health specialist says that from the first moment in which suicidal ideation is detected it is important that your environment is on alert so as to “not be late.”

Suicidal ideation is the moment in which a person begins to have suicidal thoughts and to plan how to carry them out. Contrary to popular belief, Martín claims that when someone plans to kill themselves and expresses it, it is a warning or a way of asking for help.

Yomaira has a psychiatric disorder, and a medication to control it, but has decided to do without psychological care. “For a few months I took a personal growth course in Malaga and it is the tool that I am using to face this situation.” However, the coaching craze has been questioned by experts. The dean of the Official College of Psychology of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Carmen Linares, has already pointed out that “the best coach is the psychologist.”

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