In October 2009, the National Mental Health Draft Law was approved by the Chamber of Deputies of the National Congress of Argentina and is currently awaiting review in the Senate. This law constitutes an important step in the right direction and a good example for the Region. It promotes the rights of people with mental illnesses and the development of mental health services in the general health system. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) cooperated technically with Congress in the preparation of this legislation.
If finally approved, it will turn
Argentina into a leader in the area of mental health legislation and will facilitate the implementation of a National Mental Health Plan in the country with programs developed from research-based evidence and a human rights approach.
It establishes an “interdisciplinary approach” that recognizes that all mental disorders have an origin in biological, psychological, and social causes;
- It establishes that budget allocation should be compatible with the burden of mental disorders. A 10% allocation is established under this legislation, which is a huge step forward though probably not enough.
- It explicitly indicates the need for communication between judicial authorities and professional experts, especially under circumstances when the restriction of a person’s freedom is required;
- It recognizes addictions as a mental disorder that requires care;
- Article 33 refers to the training of mental healthcare personnel at universities;
- Finally, it proposes a review board to ensure that the population’s right to health is respected by professionals who provide services.
Hundreds of people gathered around the National Congress building in December 2009 to encourage Parliament to support the National Mental Health Law and to express the need for this legislation to be enacted. The demonstration included NGO, members of the National Secretariat of Human Rights, human rights agencies, people with disabilities, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and many others. The demonstration can be viewed on YouTube.