Salud mental 2023;
Mexico at the United Nations: A step forward for mental health
Eduardo A. Madrigal de León1 , Shoshana Berenzon Gorn2
1 Dirección General, Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz, Ciudad de México, México.
2 Dirección de Investigaciones Epidemiológicas y Psicosociales, Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz, Ciudad de México, México.
Eduardo A. Madrigal de León Dirección General, Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz, Ciudad de México, México. Calz. México-Xochimilco 101, Col. San Lorenzo Huipulco, 14370 Tlalpan, Ciudad de México, México.
For centuries, issues of mental health have been surrounded by stigma. As a result of ignorance, prejudice, and mistaken conceptions of what a person is or should be, society has reacted with overwhelming violence against anything that falls outside the demands of “normality.” It is a social archetype we constantly run into. After an arduous battle on multiple fronts, this perspective is finally coming undone. A milestone on the path is the resolution “Mental Health and Psychosocial Support,” proposed by Mexico and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on June 26, 2023.
Mexico has taken a step forward in favor of mental health and psychosocial support from a human rights perspective. Resolution A/77/L.77, presented by Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez, our country’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN), is an important step toward a necessary change of perspective. Attitudes and actions in violation of human dignity can no longer be defended today. There is now a demand for comprehensive health care and the development of every individual on the basis of commitments like this.
This UN resolution invites member states to improve their mental health services as part of universal health coverage. It also encourages them to come together and cooperate in including these issues in emergency response plans, incorporating the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also emphasizes the importance of creating programs that attend to long-term psychosocial needs, with adequate funding.
This resolution was born in recognition of a historic debt. The General Assembly has admitted that for decades, the situation was one of underdevelopment and neglect in mental health services and psychosocial support. There was overwhelming stigmatization, not only in society in general and its channels of communication, but also in systems of health care presumably dedicated to safeguarding the general welfare. Such marginalization and neglect cannot continue, and so the UN has approved this resolution.
Although many of the provisions of this resolution may seem obvious from a progressive mental health perspective, the fact is that these ideas have not previously reached such a high level: that of international recognition. This step means that although the perspectives of the world’s health systems will not change overnight, these systems will begin to establish solid standards to which all countries should aspire. These standards involve the creation of models of care and support based on respect for the rights of all, an end to the exclusion of people with psychosocial disabilities, and the consolidation of legal frameworks to eliminate all forms of mistreatment and discrimination. But they also involve a change in the very paradigm of health: the recognition that mental health is not defined by “the absence of problems” but by the construction of contexts that respect the inherent dignity of all.
As Ambassador De la Fuente has said, this is not only a recognition of the importance of mental health, but also of the dignity and comprehensive well-being to which all persons have a right. There are many positions, he says, but the commitment is the same in all cases. It is a notable achievement for our country to have taken the lead in putting this comprehensive health perspective on the agenda. It is a declaration that this struggle cannot wait, and a reaffirmation that economic, social, and cultural rights are not secondary.
Resolution A/77/L.77 is not the finish line; much remains to be done to advance the cause of mental health and psychosocial support, both on the social and legislative levels –the urgent need to end discrimination– and on the level of policies and programs. But neither is it merely the starting point: it is the result of a collective struggle that has begun to produce results. It is clearly a milestone along the way to other such milestones in the future.
Madrigal de León, E. A., & Berenzon Gorn, S. (2023). Mexico at the United Nations: A step forward for mental health. Salud Mental, 46(6), 275-283.