Stigma toward mental illness in Latin America and the Caribbean

Larry Yang and colleagues recently published a systematic review of studies describing stigma toward mental illness in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Declaration of Caracas in 1990 implemented a number of mental health reforms in countries of the region and represented a marked shift in mental health policy in Latin America. The main objectives of these reforms was to: 1) anchor mental health within primary care; 2) develop community mental health services; and 3) reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.  Brazil, Panama, and Chile are examples of countries with successful models that implement these reforms. However, a recent evaluation of mental health services in Latin America reported that stigma is still an important barrier to recovery in people with mental illness.

Yang and colleagues’ review found that stigma, in addition to having powerful forms that are shared across cultures, is expressed with important local differences that have meaning in particular Latin American contexts.  They conclude that to reduce mental illness-related stigma, the design of interventions in this region may benefit from considering cultural dynamics exhibited by Latino population.

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