New Mental Health Law enacted in Argentina

On November 25, the National Senate of Argentina passed the new Mental Health Law after three years of intensive work. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO-WHO) participated actively in the process of discussion and elaboration together with stakeholders in the area of mental health, human rights governmental authorities, NGOs, consumers and family members, professionals, universities and trade unions.

On 2 December, the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, enacted the law that bears number 26,657. This event, held at the “Casa Rosada”, seat of the national government, was attended by the Minister of Health, Juan Luis Manzur; the former congressman and author of the project, Leonardo Gorbacz; the National Director of Mental Health, Yago Di Nella; PAHO-WHO Deputy Director, Socorro Gross; PAHO-WHO Representative in Argentina, Antonio Pagés, and Hugo Cohen, PAHO-WHO Subregional Adviser on Mental Health for South America, among others.

The new law comes in the same year the National Office on Mental Health was recreated. The articulation between legislation and policy is thus sealed to facilitate changes in Argentina’s mental health system.

Law 26,657 incorporates recommendations from the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and from the most modern international standards in the field of mental health. Informed consent and the creation of commissions to supervise inpatients’ health status, together with the prohibition to open new psychiatric hospitals and compulsory hospitalization in general hospitals, are only some examples of the developments mentioned.

This law is a breakthrough in the Region and will certainly allow other countries to promote change. Argentina now faces a new historical challenge: the implementation of the law in order to build a fairer mental health system, accessible to everyone.