Mental Health in Mexico
The progress of psychology, medical intervention and social work is making mental health and illness awareness a necessary part of daily life. In Mexico, estimates have determined that 17% of the population has at least one mental disorder, with the expectation that one in four people could suffer from an ailment once during their lifetime. According to Plan Seguro, a health insurance provider, the financial and economic costs of mental illnesses in developing countries is equal to 4% of a country’s GDP. Red Voz Pro Salud Mental (VPSM), a nonprofit organization in Mexico, is doing its part to better serve the community and bring understanding and resources to those struggling with mental health disorders. Gabriela Cámara, psychologist and honorary president of Red Voz Pro, addresses the issues surrounding mental health in Mexico through education and the establishment of vital rehabilitation programs and facilities.

Combating Stigmas Around Mental Health

Red Voz Pro Salud Mental is a nonprofit network of organizations providing services for those suffering from mental illnesses in Mexico, as well as their families and professionals in the field. These resources range from establishing support groups and publicizing vital information on social media to providing psychoeducation of clients and promoting laws to the federal government. It also teaches the National Alliance of Mental Health’s Family to Family course and VPSM’s Land Ahoy course for patients. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Cámara contended that the most urgent challenge facing VPSM is “combating the stigma” that comes with mental illness. According to Doctor Medina Mora’s study at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mexico ranked second in the world in the level of stigma associated with mental health services. As a result, outreach is a crucial tool in Red Voz’s belt.

The biggest misconception regarding mental health in Mexico is the belief “that one gets better with cleansing or esoteric methods, or that it is the fault of the mother or family or the patient themselves.” This mythmaking, blame-casting idea affects a patient’s ability to get treatment, find employment and social interaction opportunities or disclose their concerns with family and friends. Red Voz Pro’s solution is one of publicity and support.

The Key is Education

Cámara insists that “through support groups, messages on social media and psychoeducation,” Mexico can overcome the stigma of mental illness. By eradicating stigma, the country can turn its focus to fostering a communal understanding of mental health and thus develop a greater ability to help those afflicted. Mental disorders among young people are almost twice as high in Mexico than in the U.S. and Canada. This likely mirrors poverty’s relationship with mental illness. Cámara points out, “lower-income increases the chance of family violence, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide,” all of which one can combat with education.

Depression will be the second leading cause of disability in the world in the decade ahead and the first in developing countries, such as Mexico. The number of people experiencing mental health illnesses only continues to increase, putting the onus on learning how to recognize, accept, investigate and nurture the thoughts and feelings that one may associate with malaise. While education might appear the trite and oversimplified solution to mental health in Mexico, Cámera asserts it is the way forward.

Institutional Organizations Help Support Mental Health

VPSM focuses on “uniting similar civil organizations with government programs, crisis hotlines, and rehabilitation facilities” as a means to serve its population. The need for comprehensive health coverage is a problem that Mexico, and other nations, face. “Approximately 40% of the population has no insurance,” says Cámara, leaving integral treatments underdeveloped and underfunded. Mexico is waiting to see if the current administration is willing to tackle these issues. Number six of Red Voz’s 13 “Objectives at the National Level” is to work with the federal health system to detect and prevent issues that arise from unidentified mental health problems. By giving an increased voice to nonprofit health services such as VPSM, the federal government can receive support from a caseload and transparency point of view.

Moreover, institutional restructuring and cooperation is a process that Cámara maintains is vital to help citizens get through these hardships. “Institutions must have programs of relapse prevention, support for families, people working to decrease suicide, etc.” Without these social nets, human beings lack adequate understanding of what they are going through and thus make struggle and despair an obvious pathway. VPSM aims to be there for Mexicans looking to steer back toward the road of recovery and community.

Red Voz Pro Salud Mental is consolidating an alliance between mental health networks in Mexico by promoting psychoeducation to improve the quality of life of those struggling with mental disorders. In a world where systems feel impervious to mental health, particularly in Mexico, this nonprofit stands out by valuing human-to-human management, supporting other civil organizations and understanding mental health disorders.

– Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr