Mental Health in CubaStudies have identified poverty as a factor that can contribute to poor mental health. Knifton and Inglis detail this by underscoring that “Poverty in childhood and among adults can cause poor mental health through social stresses, stigma and trauma.” This applies to all countries, including Cuba. Here are five factors impacting mental health in Cuba.

5 Factors Impacting Mental Health in Cuba

  1. The Impact of Shift Work. The Havana Times highlights that shift work, often visible in medical and government sectors in Cuba, adversely impacts mental health. For instance, an employee may need to work 24-hour straight shifts coupled with three days off thereafter.  A study by Park and Lee published in 2022 says these types of shifts raise an employee’s susceptibility to depressive and anxiety-related symptoms by 33% and double the risk of suicidal thoughts. This is due to the fact that shift work disturbs the natural circadian cycle and heightens the risk of Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD).  In comparison to workers with standard daytime schedules, suicidal ideation is twice as common in shift employees.
  2. The Impact of Turbulent Housing Circumstances. A lack of stable and secure housing can induce stress that leads to mental turmoil. Oftentimes, large Cuban families in poverty live in constricted, single-room homes provided by the government with insufficient space to accommodate multigenerational families. This limitation in their daily lives can ultimately lead to mental health troubles, says a study on mental illness in Cuba by Laura Nohr and others. In addition, impoverished citizens may lack the resources for the maintenance of their houses, resulting in the deterioration of housing. The inability to maintain long-term homes can enhance levels of mental distress.
  3. The Impact of Stigma. A study by Laura Nohr and others indicates that, in Cuba, there is a high prevalence of stigma surrounding mental health. Yet, despite this stigma, study participants showed a willingness to seek out professional assistance for mental health conditions. The reasoning behind this is that in Cuba mental illness is not perceived as a factor that may jeopardize one’s social status. And, in Cuba, mental illness is generally not considered a risk factor for poverty. Regardless, prejudice toward those who seek treatment remains an issue to address in order to further increase the utilization of mental health care services. 
  4. Cuba Prioritizes Early Interventions. Early diagnosis and intervention for the onset of mental health issues stand as a priority in Cuba, according to a study by Ruiz and Linz. From birth, each Cuban citizen holds the right to free and accessible mental and general health care diagnosis, care and evaluation services by professional health care specialists. Moreover, medical and psychological evaluations are routine and required throughout a Cuban’s lifetime to facilitate the early identification of symptoms.
  5. Support for People with Mental Health Diagnoses. Community and labor institutions in Cuba provide assistance to those undergoing mental health or medical treatment to enable them to maintain their education progress and employment. The institutions conduct evaluations of an individual’s capabilities, training, work experience and environment in order to assign them to a particular job while undergoing treatment. As such,  while undergoing treatment, those with mental health conditions do not need to concern themselves about shifts in their living, economic or educational situation. These potential forms of employment extend beyond manual labor according to the person’s skill set. Similarly, these institutions consider the possibility of a young person continuing their education and provide guidance and support accordingly.

With a commitment to supporting the mental health care needs of struggling Cubans and the prioritization of early interventions, mental health in Cuba can continue improving.

– Katrina Girod
Photo: Flickr