Mental Health in ArgentinaIn the past decade, awareness and agendas surrounding mental health across the globe have gained significant traction. Specifically, many have celebrated Argentina’s efforts to regulate and normalize therapy and other mental health services. With Argentina being the second largest country in South America and having a population of about 46 million citizens, it may seem incredibly daunting to tackle such a challenging issue. Despite this, Argentina has defied expectations. In fact, the nation has implemented various policies to increase awareness of mental health in Argentina and create more accessible services for those who need them. 

On the Rise   

In November 2010, Argentina’s National Congress passed a new MHL, better known as a Mental Health Law. This law “aims to develop approaches in mental health that are compatible with the most advanced views.” It encompasses several articles, but primarily focuses on inclusion, advocating the rights of mental health professionals while ensuring the correct prescription of medication. Although this is not the first law Argentina has adopted, this law has led to remarkable progress and has been proven effective. 

Furthermore, Argentina holds the title for having the most psychologists per capita in the world. Psychologists in this country focus on adequate training and strive to provide affordable therapy. People consider it healthy to attend therapy and see a psychologist in Argentina. In fact, “it’s standard for people from all age groups and demographics to attend therapy.” In addition to the increasing number of people attending therapy in Argentina, mental health services in Argentina have also begun to advance, as online therapy has started to emerge. MantraCare, which serves more than 10,000 individuals, is an online therapy service available in Argentina. Patients confidentially begin therapy for a reasonable price at their desired time, all from the comfort of their homes. This online platform is one of many that Argentinians can choose from. 

Promoting Services in Every Region

While Argentina’s recognition of mental health issues is good, there is still room for progress. Citizens in Buenos Aires, the nation’s capital, have effortless access to psychiatrists. With a standing population of around 15 million, many inhabitants have secure and guaranteed access to mental health services. Since most mental health care providers live in the capital city, those in rural areas do not enjoy a similar access experience. Many individuals who live in these rural areas struggle, as 39% of residents are in poverty. While Argentina does employ social programs to address poverty, these efforts often fall short in meeting the needs of those in poverty. Consequently, citizens facing poverty are frequently marginalized, particularly in terms of mental health services. This further exacerbates their challenges in accessing the necessary support.

Recognizing the tendency to overlook these citizens, the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken significant steps to ensure their inclusion in new mental health policies. The WHO Mental Health Gap Action Organization Programme, known as mhGAP, specifically focuses on scaling up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. In Argentina, a crucial priority for the WHO is extending this program to all provinces, not just Buenos Aires. To achieve this, 60 experts from various regions of the country underwent training to conduct mental health evaluations and set priorities as part of this program.

Looking Ahead

The growing acceptance and promotion of mental health services in Argentina could pave the way for increased access to such services in the coming years. Policymakers are actively introducing new laws centered on mental health, fostering a promising outlook for the future.

Although challenges persist, the advancements in Argentina’s approach to mental health are notable. Other countries seeking to reform their mental health policies can find inspiration in Argentina’s progress and use it as a blueprint for their own endeavors.

– Ryan Balberman
Photo: Flickr