Spain’s Room of Tears aims to lift silence around mental health

Spain’s Room of Tears aims to lift the silence around mental health, emphasizes the need not to be ashamed to ask for help

The Editorial Board


Posted on 10.23.21, 01:33 AM

Men don’t cry. Neither do women, if tears expose their most intimate fears and pains in society. The world, especially the West, seems pretty convinced of this, although the public crying of women over death is allowed in many cultures – lack of tears can then become a problem. There are also ceremonial structures for mourning the dead with lamentations and prayers. But crying over death is different from crying with anxiety and fear, or crying for help when you are on the brink of mental abyss. Society is still bewildered by the public dissemination of mental health problems, even though suicides of young and old have become a leading cause of death in more than one country. The decision of the Spanish government to open a “crying room” in the middle of Madrid to make mental health a visible problem is a reassuring step in this context. Spain’s Prime Minister also announced a € 100 million package for a mental health campaign and the opening of a 24-hour suicide hotline on World Mental Health Day.

Both men and women can come cry or ask for help through the numbers listed for mental health experts on the phones parked there. The name is a provocative reversal of the Spanish saying that sends people with problems to go and cry in the “room of tears” instead of making their anxieties and fears public. Nothing could better underline the emptiness of the stigma attached to mental health problems. The invitation to the entrance to come and cry, with another motto suggesting that anxieties are shared by many, shatters notions of gender through the open recognition of the universality of unhappiness and mental fragility. The traditional expectation of men with stiff lips is severely disadvantageous to the mental health profession. Spain’s Weeping Room is for everyone.

This is especially appropriate during and after the pandemic – there are thousands of men, women and children who need to cry, whose terrors and anxieties need to be alleviated, who need help rehabilitating in a society ravaged by illness and absence. The death of loved ones, enormous economic stress, acute uncertainty about the future are enough to cause psychological problems in themselves. This is apart from the exacerbation of existing illnesses – depression being one of the most common. Then again, caregivers of disabled children or the elderly in need of constant care are themselves at mental risk with schools closed and no home help. Spain has led by example, although the Hall of Cries is more about removing stigma and bringing mental health issues into the public debate. But it’s still a creative effort to build a social safety net around the people who desperately need it. In the context of the pandemic, this example can be used elsewhere, in smaller localities and clusters of villages, as societies need to relearn ways to connect, protect and hang on.

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