- The Argentine Emphasis on Mental Health
When I was in Argentina, I remember having the impression that people seemingly take mental health more seriously than in other countries.
Given I spent limited time in Argentina of some odd months and am not from there, I was never entirely sure how accurate my impression was.
When I was there, I remember specifically 2 chicks anyway that seemingly went to some psychologist or whatever regularly.
One was a chick I was hooking up with a few times named Tami that I wrote about here.
And another was the woman that ran the homestay where I lived named Monica.
While I was there, I also did a study abroad where our study abroad program mentioned something about how a lot of people see a psychologist or whatever else in Argentina as part of some "warm up course" as to what Argentine society was like.
It was just a few days of basic information given to us to let us know what the basics are of Argentina.
Including the culture, food, history, etc.
With a little booklet to go through with all the information presented for those curious enough to go through the whole thing.
At any rate, it sure seemed initially and with my interactions with a few folks down here that, for whatever reason, it's relatively more common for people to see a psychologist or whatever than it is in other countries.
Since the years have passed, I have also seen actually the occasional article come up online discussing this aspect to society in Argentina.
As of recently, I was reminded again of the topic as I saw this article here come up on my Twitter feed and figured I'd throw in my 2 cents briefly.
"In Therapy? In Argentina, it's the Norm"
My personal experience though doesn't go beyond the few individuals that I met and the little booklet we had to go through.
So, out of curiosity, I figured I'd look more into the topic for the purposes of what you are reading now.
What other basic facts can we find out about this aspect to society in Argentina?
Basic Facts on Mental Health in Argentina
Right away, we have this interesting bit of information here:
"De hecho, Argentina tiene la mayor cantidad de psicólogos per cápita en el mundo: cerca de 198 por cada 100.000 habitantes, de los cuales casi la mitad están en la capital argentina. En la región, le sigue muy de lejos Colombia, con 11 por cada 100.000 habitantes.Oct 9, 2017"
Basically, Argentina has the highest number of psychologists per capita in the world with 198 per 100,000 inhabitants and how almost half of them are in Buenos Aires.
That same article goes on to say that, in Palermo of Buenos Aires, there is an area known as "Villa Freud" where thousands of patients are listened to weekly.
Apparently there is also a national law that states that the right to mental health is protected for all citizens and is seemingly considered a human right.
Out of curiosity, I looked into it and found another article here explaining the law in question:
"In Argentina 2010, the National Mental Health Law (Law No. 26.656) was unanimously passed."
"Law No. 26.656 includes among its provisions the prohibition of building new public or private mental hospitals. Law No. 26.656 also stipulates the definitive replacement of existing mental hospitals for alternative treatments such as, hospital beds in general hospitals, home care, socio-labor training centers, interdisciplinary specialized care for patients, community housing and casas de medio camino (specialized residences for people with mental disorders). Law No. 26.656 also recognizes the importance of focusing attention on social integration and patient’s inclusion and respect for the right to have mental disorders not be considered as a non-modifiable status."
The Argentine government has also taken other steps to address mental health it seems like you can see here from the same article last cited:
"In Argentina, the rights of people with mental disorders are recognized in instruments of international law with constitutional hierarchy, namely the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides the right to care and protection of mental health and CRPD also highlights the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork. In order to implement CRPD, the government of Argentina created in 2017 the Plan Nacional de Discapacidad (National Disability Plan) defined as a public policy instrument."
However, there are issues that come with all of this.
First, as the last article stated, apparently mental health isn't taken as seriously as it should. Sounds surprising to me actually given all I hear about mental health in Argentina compared to most countries but here's a quote from that last article:
"However, this is a challenge in Argentina because mental health issues still do not reach the degree of visibility that they should have. It could be because Argentinian culture tends to ignore mental health issues and to the culture of enclosing people in mental hospitals that causes rights violations. For example, emotional education, an educational tool to prevent mental disorders, does not seem to be a priority in the country. In the 2016-2021 National Strategic Plan “Argentina enseña y aprende” (Argentina Teaches and Learns) presents the priority educational objectives for 2021 and does not mention emotional education for young people."
The same article also mentions a rise in mental health issues in young people (mostly depression and anxiety) and that progress is slow on replacing current mental hospitals.
Outside of that, you have that other article here that also states that, just 5 kilometers away, you have a lot of poorer folks who basically have limited access to proper mental health services and seems to imply that the lack of ability to pay is a barrier for many to get any services they might need.
Here's the quote:
"Pero a menos de cinco kilómetros del barrio del psicoanálisis, en uno de los asentamientos precarios de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, miles de personas están expuestas a problemas sociales complejos y grandes dificultades para acceder a prestaciones de salud mental. Para ellos, Villa Freud no es más que un conjunto de calles y manzanas en una zona acomodada de la ciudad."
"Todos los individuos, particularmente los más vulnerables, requieren de acceso a servicios de salud de calidad a lo largo de su vida, ya sean de promoción, prevención, curación, rehabilitación o cuidados paliativos, sin tener que pasar por dificultades financieras para pagarlos."
Still, despite those challenges, plenty do manage to see a psychologist when they can for, as you can see here, 3 out of every 10 Argentinians visit a psychologist.
While the article itself is a little bit outdated, it does give some interesting statistics anyhow that are probably still relevant to some degree.
"1 de cada 2 residentes en Capital Federal asegura haber hecho consultas psicológicas, mientras que también lo hicieron 5 de cada 10 habitantes del interior del país y del Gran Buenos Aires. En tanto, estas consultas son más frecuentes en la población femenina (el 37% de las mujeres argentinas contra el 27% de los hombres residentes en el país), mientras que también crecen a medida que baja la edad."
"La encuesta también muestra que en los últimos tres años la clase media fue el sector socieconómico que más crecimiento tuvo en cuanto a consultas psicológicas: alcanzó un 44% este año contra un 29% en 2006. La tendencia, aunque menor, también se dio en los niveles socieconómicos alto (57% en 2009 contra un 51% en 2006) y bajo (24% en 2009 contra 22% en 2006)."
So, in English, this is what it was saying from what I understand:
1. Half of the residents in the Federal Capital have seen a psychologist while half of the inhabitants in the interior of the country and Greater Buenos Aires have done so as well.
2. Women and younger people are more likely to see a psychologist.
3. Apparently the middle class is the fastest growing socioeconomic group that is seeing psychologists (44%). It also seems though the upper class is the class that uses them the most compared to other socioeconomic groups (57%) and the poor class uses them the least (24%).
Above all, it does seem like Argentina takes mental health more seriously than most of Latin America and quite a few countries in the world both in terms of how many psychologists there, how many people use their services and also behavior by the government.
Without question, it doesn't seem perfect and many issues are still present within society to addressing mental health concerns within society.
Anything to Add?
That's all for now.
I'm sure there's a lot more that could be said but, as I pointed out, I'm not an expert on this issue.
Only wanted to bring light to the issue as I saw it mentioned on Twitter recently and it got me thinking about how I came to the same observation when I was spending some odd months in Buenos Aires.
There are likely many more sources that go into detail on this topic.
Here's a video I found anyway for those curious.
And, as a last comment, I suppose, now that I think about it, Argentina could probably help Uruguay out with mental health given that Uruguay is supposedly the suicide capital of Latin America as I wrote here.
Anyway, if you got anything to add, drop a comment below.
Follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.