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News Article

Mental Health: Priority for Future Policies

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 02/19/2021 - 14:33

Congress approved a reform to the General Health Law to prioritize mental health and addiction in all health policies implemented by the government. The main goal of this reform is to restructure the health system from one that currently isolates mental health issues and addiction, to one that provides a sense of community and therefore, paves the way to universal healthcare and equal access to health services, reported El Economista.

To ensure the basics of this policy, the reform proposes all public institutions to provide access to mental health and addiction services, especially for those in vulnerable situations. These services must always promote the participation of families and/or support groups and organizations. The reform targets people with attention deficit, autism and Asperger's syndrome. It also includes conditions such as depression, bipolar affective disorder, anxiety, panic, stress, schizophrenia, epilepsy, seizures, dementia and substance use.

How Are Mental Health and Addictions Currently Approached by the Health System?

Mexico City does offer mental health attention at large primary care hospitals, according to Oliva López, Minister of Health of Mexico City. “We also have 32 units that offer medical specialties where we provide care and addiction prevention. At the beginning of the year, these were also focused on treating mental health issues,” she said to MBN. Right before the pandemic, this Ministry recruited a significant number of psychologists to strengthen this area, according to López. “These programs have continued throughout the pandemic, albeit with reduced intensity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the immense need for mental health attention. “This is one issue that is still not getting enough attention; it is a crisis that has emerged due the many things generated by the pandemic,” said Graciela Teruel, Director of EQUIDE-IBERO to MBN. The many factors that Teruel sees as boosters of the mental health crisis are people losing their job or seeing their income reduced significantly, in addition to the concern of getting sick and uncertainty regarding access to hospital beds. “One of our studies found that one in three Mexicans now suffers from severe anxiety,” Teruel shared. According to her statement, this is having a real impact on productivity and absenteeism, “not to mention suicides.”

The university has introduced support programs to support people during the pandemic. Eduardo García Luna, Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences at UDEM, shared with MBN that UDEM has also developed virtual attention programs, as well as presential programs where necessary and following all sanitary measures to support its community. The program was also open for anyone in need. García Luna said that UDEM already offered these services but the university focused on reinforcing them remotely by creating direct lines of attention for the internal and external community. “We even put these services at the state’s disposition as we saw the struggles the pandemic was generating among the population.”

The reform approved by the government received criticism from members of the Congress, according to Milenio. Comments say the initiative is far too wide to correctly approach the issues it intends to tackle and that this will have an unclear impact, making it difficult to measure its results.

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Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst