MERCOSUR REGION PERSPECTIVES_ M.R. forge_ WPA Zonal Representative, Zone 5

The Mercosur is a region in South America officially composed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, but which also includes Chile. Brazil is a Portuguese speaking country and all others are Spanish speaking countries, but they all share a common heritage and culture from the Iberic peninsula. There are some differences in the way health services and policies were and are organized in these countries but they have shared – and continue to do so – some common experiences in the mental health area. Up to recent times, mental health care was provided by governments mostly in large psychiatric hospitals but, after the Caracas Declaration in 1990, a change in his scenario is occurring. Legislation on mental health in some countries has changed since then, with a shift from an emphasis on hospital care to community care and also on protecting the rights of psychiatric patients. As a consequence, a number of large hospitals have been closed and others reduced their number of beds. General hospital units for psychiatric patients are growing in number as well as outpatient services. A considerable number of Universities have training programs in psychiatry and research has increased in the last few ears. Advocacy movements are also growing in the region and some users and family associations have been created in large and medium sized cities. But social and economical problems experienced by all countries in the region are still shaping mental health and access to are in those countries. Poverty, violence, substance abuse, stigma and discrimination against mental illness, among other factors, are always present in the daily life of ill or not ill people. Some numbers which illustrate this situation will be provided and some proposals discussed as a way to improve mental health in Latin America.

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