Parliamentarians from Latin America are collaborating and sharing experiences to address the weaknesses in the region’s health systems in dealing with mental health issues. This exchange aims to learn from the successes and challenges encountered on national laws regarding mental health in countries such as Argentina and Mexico, to then apply them to the current project of the National Mental Health Law in Ecuador.
Hon. María José Plaza, MP from Ecuador states:
“I consider it necessary to hold technical roundtables to deal with the importance that the future national mental health law in Ecuador deserves. The presence of experts on the subject is essential at these tables and we must learn from the experience of other countries that already have a national law on this subject, such as Argentina and Mexico, with successes and errors”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness of mental health in the region, and the need for Latin America to start talking about and legislating on the matter. In fact, mental health issues are becoming more common, particularly among children and adolescents, which requires a comprehensive public intervention, along with a budget and political decision to address the issue.
In February 2023, Hon. Gisela Scaglia, UNITE’s Chapter Chair for Latin America and the Caribbean and former National Deputy of Argentina, offered technical and material support on mental health legislation to respond to the request of Assemblywoman María José Plaza. Hon Plaza, a member of UNITE and Vice President of the Commission on the Right to Health and Sports of the National Assembly of Ecuador is evaluating with her team the current project of the National Mental Health Law in Ecuador. The country does not have a national law on this subject, and she and her team were interested in learning more about the experience in Argentina, where the possibility of reforming the existing regulatory framework is under discussion.
Hon. Gisela Scaglia, former national Deputy of Argentina points out:
“Today we have a debate in the Argentine Congress with experts on the need to reform our mental health legislation. For many Argentines, the law as it is failed and has to be modified, because it does not contemplate many situations and because it does not even have a budget item stipulated in the law that can guarantee the minimum necessary treatments”.
But in fact, this exchange of experiences between members of UNITE began in November 2022. At that time, Congresswoman Saraí Núñez Cerón, from Mexico, invited by Assemblywoman Plaza, presented to the members of the Commission on the Right to Health and Sports of the National Assembly of Ecuador, during the weekly work meeting of the Commission, the Mexican experience in legislation on this problem, and the challenges, successes and errors of a national mental health law in Mexico.
Hon. Saraí Núñez Cerón, MP from Mexico adds:
“In Mexico it is important to create the legislative instrument, which is the General Mental Health Law, so that this law does not get lost in other laws that are not specific to the subject. And above all, ensuring that there is a budget that can meet the objectives of the law, because that is the only guarantee in the short, medium and long term that it will be possible to attend to the problems and requirements of the population in terms of health.”
To continue this exchange of experiences between parliamentarians, on March 3rd 2023, MPs from UNITE’s Latin America region will meet to discuss mental health legislation, in what will be the first meeting in the series of “Talks in the Post-Pandemic Era”, a cycle of monthly conversations on topics, questions and problems of health legislation specific to the region.