The entire Government of the 4T has been characterized by sporadic statements that astonish by their stupidity or irresponsibility. From the President -“with the detentes it is enough to fight Covid”- to the Secretary of Health -“I would not vaccinate my grandchildren”-, the amount of barbarities that one and the other have offered us make previous six-year terms that did not sing pale rancheras bad. In the ranking of medals it is difficult to classify everyone, but I have the impression that the last one from Secretary Alcocer takes the cake, the gold medal, and ears and tail, all together.
Faced with a question in the morning about mental health, the head of the unit replied: “Since 2019 we have taken an initiative… to make a transformation of mental health… There are no longer psychiatric hospitals. I am going to take this situation as a decision that is not only Mexico, it is a decision… that an individual with mental health disorders… requires comprehensive care from the family…”. I suppose he was suggesting that this had been going on for a long time, that it is the case in other countries, and that it is a conscious and deliberate policy of the López Obrador government.
From Charcot, Freud, Michel Foucault’s “History of Madness”, and Jack Nicholson in Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest”, we know that mental health care facilities are controversial. The Argentine “loqueros” or the Castañeda of my namesake in Mixcoac are so many more examples of places that can be seen as questionable institutions. And the obvious fact that every psychological disorder has an origin in the family and the environment is accompanied by another platitude truth: The treatment of mental illnesses in hospitals is not a panacea, and the history of success is short and convulsive.
But from there to the disappearance of psychiatric hospitals by official decision, without even setting up sections in other hospitals, there is an enormous distance. Until further notice, in all societies, even in the paradisiacal Mexico of the 4T, there are mental illnesses. Spaces are needed to attend to them, if not cure them.
In many cases, the family is rather the problem and not the solution. In a country where a third of households are headed by single mothers, where domestic violence is widespread, and where the availability of medicines and qualified doctors for people with clear ailments is limited, it is sheer madness to close psychiatric hospitals.
As Paco Calderón wrote in Reforma, if we believe that there are no people with psychiatric problems in Mexico, it is enough to look at the behavior of Alcocer’s boss to be convinced otherwise.
Jorge Castañeda is a Mexican politician, intellectual and commentator. He is the author of several books.