Mental health, another crisis

Several events this week have once again highlighted the critical mental health situation our nation is experiencing, where legal, economic and professional resources are insufficient to meet growing demand and there is no public policy which allow us to anticipate improvement in the near future.

The most resonant, of course, was the case with Williams Tapon, a 24-year-old bricklayer and amateur soccer player who committed suicide after his brutal attack on referee Ariel Paniagua went viral. during the game in Avellaneda. His family reported that the young man suffered from depression and anxiety disorders without proper treatment.

These days, the Catholic University Social Debt Observatory (UCA) released a disturbing report showing that last year was the worst in terms of mental and emotional health among Argentines in a decade. with high levels of psychological distress, unhappiness and social isolation. And that deteriorating mental health has hit the poorest hardest. It emphasizes that in addition to the negative consequences that the Covid-19 epidemic had on the psyche of people, the economic crisis was added: “a recessive scenario, high inflation and unfavorable employment, which led to a loss of household income,” he points out. And add “an increase in informal work, precarious part-time work that worsens conditions for well-being, health and personal projects.”

There are other indicators that illustrate the deterioration. Argentina is the second country in the region with the highest level of consumption of psychoactive substances (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and psychoactive substances) in the region. behind Uruguay. Consumption is higher in high sectors, but derived disorders (addictions) are higher in people of low socioeconomic status.

Judicial services and victim attention are reporting an increase in complaints and consultations about domestic and gender-based violence. Neighborly conflicts and minor traffic accidents end in attacks, a situation that Social Development Minister Daniel Arroyo defines as a social explosion: “There is a constant tension that leads to daily violence, and this is clearly visible in the neighborhood,” he says.

Another very affected sector is the youth. According to UNICEF, after the pandemic counseling for anxiety and depression among adolescents is on the rise, and rising suicide rates are worrisome, second leading cause of death among boys aged 10 to 19.

Although mental health law is considered cutting edge in terms of rights, attention to these issues is seriously flawed. In contrast to the 10% stipulated by the norm, only 2% of the healthcare budget is allocated to this area. There is a chronic shortage of trained staff and limited access to mental health services, with waiting times of weeks and months. security services they usually do not consider this area and the integration of mental health patients with others has shown problems. The shortage of professionals is exacerbated by the fact that, faced with low values ​​and bureaucracy, many have left the social work system, and the public is overwhelmed. on demand. According to the UBA Social Psychology Observatory, more than 50% of those who need psychological treatment don’t get it because they can’t pay for it.

Undoubtedly, politics and society should discuss growing psychological discomfort among the population; and a rethinking of how mental health issues left behind by the pandemic and crisis are being handled. The Pan American Health Organization warns that mental health issues “should not be viewed as a private battle, because this is a public crisis that requires immediate action, interdisciplinary approaches and the allocation of specific resources.”. Not only is an economic stabilization plan urgently needed, but another is urgently needed for mental health policy, as the UBA report states: “capable of repairing the psychological damage that the economic crisis has done to so many of us.”

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