Celebration of World Mental Health Day in the Americas

Multiple events were organized all over the Region in commemoration of October 10, World Mental Health Day.

In Mexico, the day was celebrated at the National Institute of Psychiatry with an event about “Mental Health and Primary Healthcare”, presided over by the Secretary of Health of Mexico’s Federal Government, José Angel Córdova Villalobos, and including the presence of the Director of the Institute, María Elena Medina Mora.

Panama organized an activity with more than 100 attendees, presided over by authorities from the Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as the Representative of the Pan American Health Organization PAHO/WHO in Panama, Joaquín Molina. The advances in the country’s  projects on “Mental Health among the Indigenous Population”, “Mental Health Components in General Hospitals”, and “Public Policies on Alcohol”, were presented during the meeting, as well as PAHO´S recent “Regional Mental Health Strategy and Action Plan”. 

Santiago de Atitlán, Guatemala, celebrated the day with a festive walk, accompanied by a carriage transporting the godmother of mental health, and other activities.    

In El Salvador, a relevant event for mental health took place on October 5, when the Minister of Health visited the facilities of the National Psychiatric Hospital and inaugurated the “Mental Health and Primary Healthcare Week”. On October 9, a forum/breakfast about “Violence and Mental Health” was organized.  It included the participation of Enrique Gomariz, currently working with the United Nations research team, who coordinated the activity; the Minister of Health, María Isabel Rodríguez; the Representative of the Pan American Health Organization in El Salvador, Priscilla Rivas Loría; and Carlos Alberto Escalante, Director of the National Program on Mental Health.  The event was also attended by mental health workers from various mental health institutions of the country. 

In Costa Rica, the “II Mental Health Research and Society Conference” was organized by the Institute of Social Research and the School of Psychology of the University of Costa Rica; the Ministry of Public Health; the Ministry of Justice; and the Pan American Health Organization. Research findings from Costa Rica about mental health issues with a focus on mental health and violence were presented at the event.

In Belize, the Mental Health Association, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, organized its annual debate in different towns of the district. The topic for the debates was: “Be it resolved that only people with mental illnesses need the services of a mental health professional”.  The participants, high school students, were organized in teams. Those who presented the best arguments were the winners.

In Villa Duarte, Dominican Republic, a mass was celebrated in the Parish of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, attended by family groups of mental health services users from Las Minas, Herrera, and Villa Duarte, as well as by mental health professionals.

In Jamaica, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with PAHO, hosted a training symposium in mental health under the theme “Empowering Individuals, Families and Communities”. The session was attended by more than one hundred and forty representatives from over eighty different organizations, including governmental and non-governmental institutions, users´ groups, and health workers. The main topics discussed were: how to start an advocacy group; community-based residential care for the mentally ill; rehabilitation programmes in the community; and maintaining mental health and wellness in the community.

In Tobago ( Trinidad and Tobago), the week of activities included: TV and radio interviews; four days of information to the public in a tent across from the mental health unit; and one interactive day at the mall-display, which included stress and blood pressure tests, blood sugar testing and talking to the public. All the personnel wore t-shirts with the Health Authority logo “no health without mental health”.

In Ecuador, the Ministry of Public Health and the Pan American Health Organization celebrated World Mental Health Day under the slogan “Mental health in primary care: improving treatment and promoting mental health”. The participants included the Director of Mental Health, Enrique Aguilar; the General Director of Health, Carmen Laspina; Hugo Cohen, PAHO/WHO Regional Advisor on Mental Health; and Celia Riera, Representative of PAHO/WHO in Ecuador; as well as other national authorities.   

PAHO’s Representative in Ecuador laid emphasis on the still existing treatment gap for people with mental illnesses and that the challenge is precisely integrating primary care into the provision of these services. The activity concluded with the presentation of a group of youth,“Grupo Identidades Juveniles Urbanas y Prevención del Alcoholismo”, who are currently working on the promotion of peer education for the prevention of alcoholism, drug addiction, and other risk social behaviors.

In Uruguay, the National Mental Health Program (NMHP) of the Ministry of Public Health held a conference to present the 2009 ongoing and completed works: the Mental Health Document for the Primary Healthcare Level, the Evaluation of Uruguay’s National Mental Health System, and the National Guide to Mental Health Resources, among others. For the first time, the “2009 Recognition of Practices for the Improvement of Mental Health Services” was awarded to stimulate these experiences. During the ceremony, which was attended by national authorities, representatives of PAHO Uruguay and a vast audience, the Minister of Public Health gave the awards to the selected institutions in different categories: Promotion and Prevention in Mental Health, Care in Crisis, General Health Care and Mental Healthcare Centers, Psycho-social Rehabilitation, Labor Insertion, Assisted Living Residences, and Problematic Use of Drugs.