The Ministries of Education and Health are initiating a mental health work plan for higher education institutions at the University of Chile.

Higher Education Mental Health Plan Starts at U. de Chile

Government agencies, institutions of higher education and student leaders traveled to the Central House of the University of Chile to participate in the implementation of the first national mental health plan for university students. In particular, the results of the diagnostics carried out by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education on this issue were announced. In addition, the establishment of an Advisory Board responsible for the preparation of an action plan was announced, which will be completed in December this year.

After 11:00 a.m., a milestone was held in the Enrique Sazie Hall of the Central Building of the University of Chile, marking the launch of preparation of the first national mental health plan for university students. The meeting was chaired by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Victor Orellana; Deputy Minister of Health, Andrea Albagliand rector of the University of Chile, Rosa Devesas well as the participation of senior leaders from various higher education institutions, mental health experts and representatives of various student federations.

The greeting was given Pamela Diaz RomeroVice-Chancellor(s) for Student and Community Affairs of the University of Chile, who warned that “the number of students affected by their mental health has risen alarmingly in the process of returning to full-time education.” she pointed out that Efforts are being made in various educational institutions to “develop strategies to enable timely detection, adequate containment and effective management of difficult cases”.. For this, universities need to cooperate with the ministries of education and health.”

Then, The panel of experts presented various ongoing initiatives and implemented strategies aimed at protecting the mental health of university students.. A group of specialists, representatives of various institutions, consisted of Vanya MartinezDirector of the Millennium Core for Adolescent and Youth Mental Health Improvement (Imhai) and Academician of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Chile; Belen VargasAdvisor to the Department of Mental Health of the Ministry of Health (Minsal); Maria Teresa RamirezSpecialist Somos Comunidad of the Ministry of Education (Mineduc); Christopher Hernandez, Fellow, Millennium Institute for Depression and Personality Research (MIDAP); And Yvonne Ahlersdirector of student health at the University of Chile.

Among the points highlighted, Maria Teresa Ramirez noted that part of the planning of intersectoral work is the definition of the scope of institutional and government actions, as well as the need to clearly define working networks. “It is important to understand that well-being and mental health are a condition for guaranteeing the right to education.from primary education and as an ongoing process, with articulated spaces to accompany,” he said.

For his part, Cristobal Hernandez emphasized the importance of communities, pointing out that “People have been shown to reach their maximum potential when we support each other and feel safe. Otherwise, interpersonal relationships turn into a stressful event.”. In addition, he added that “the good quality of these relationships helps reflect a lower incidence of depressive symptoms.”

Meanwhile Professor Ahlers was talking about an alarming increase in the severity and number of requests for psychiatric care at the University of Chile, which grew by 167% compared to 2022. In addition, he presented the actions implemented by Casa de Bello in this matter. “We are facing this situation through a broad model of care that involves a multidisciplinary team and includes health promotion and prevention activities, clinical mental health care and continuity of care,” he explained.

Diagnostic results

During the activity Deputy Ministers of Higher Education and Health presented the results of the first institutional mental health diagnostics in higher education. Among the findings, it turned out that 69.6% of universities have mental health guidelines.At the same time, 44.3% of institutions of vocational education have such strategies.

Deputy Secretary of State Orellana announced that “we have completed the diagnostics and are going to move to the facts stage. This implies move to form an advisory committee to finalize the action plan in December of this year“.

“We must recognize that without mental health, there is no health. Your help is continuous and should be addressed from preventive to medical care.”, for his part, Deputy Secretary of State Albagly assured. The specialist also stated that “a stigma has been established regarding mental health problems, which becomes a barrier to entry. People are ashamed, do not share and talk about their problems, which prevents them from getting timely help.”

Sabina Orellana, FEUC President and Confech Spokesperson, called for this work with students and “rethinking learning and assessment models, regional student support networks, accompaniment systems. You can have an excellent education and a culture of well-being, they are compatible. Study cannot be pain or anxiety, university cannot be a place of risk, it should be a place of enjoyment.“.

Institutional Commitment

Launch of an intersectoral work plan on mental health for higher education institutions Its main goal is to strengthen actions and policies in this area, promoting cooperation between higher education institutions and the government..

Due to this Rector Rosa Deves emphasized the importance of taking into account the views of key stakeholders in the development of this new policy.. “The students have great power to mobilize us. They and they should be the main characters,” he said. He also stressed that “today we show that the institutions, together with the Ministry of Education and Health, work in a coordinated manner, and this is an example for other government policies.”

Rector of the University of Valparaiso and President of the Consortium of Public Universities of Chile (CUECh), Osvaldo Corralesstressed that this is a participatory process that will draw on the experience of the communities themselves. In this sense, he assured that “this is an extremely important milestone, which already has the support of public universities. We are concerned about the mental health of students, as well as those of us who work in higher education.“.

Therefore, working together on this plan is expected to identify areas for improvement, promote prevention and mental health, and ensure student well-being.

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