Mental health in Venezuela – Borgen project


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Mental health in Venezuela
Due to the ongoing humanitarian and economic crises in the country, mental health in Venezuela has become a leading problem for both people who stay in the country and those who migrate to escape trouble at home. Mental health problems affect Venezuelans of all ages, and the changes brought about by COVID-19 have exacerbated the problem.

Mental health in Venezuela

Following the death of former Venezuelan President Hugo Cháves, Nicolás Maduro took power in 2013. Due to declining foreign aid and outdated spending policies, the economy fell into deficit, eventually leading to food and drug shortages. Since the beginning of the conflict, more than 5.6 million people have fled Venezuela, mostly to Peru or Colombia.

The turmoil over hyperinflation, political unrest, and the mass exodus that followed created a stressful environment in which the development of mental health problems was common. Prior to the pandemic, one in two Venezuelan migrants in Peru showed some health problems, including those related to depression, fear, anxiety, or stress, and was left without professional care. Following the advent of COVID-19, estimates show that less than 10% of those in need of health care can be treated due to economic constraints or quarantine-related policies.

Effects on children

Mental health in Venezuela is not just a problem of the adult population. Although the Venezuelan government does not monitor data on the mental health of its youth, it is possible to see the circumstances through those who work first-hand with Venezuelan children. Cecodap is one such NGO that focuses on the rights of children and adolescents. Psychologist Abel Saraiba works closely with Cecodap in Venezuela, reporting that the number of children showing symptoms of depression and anxiety rose from 9% in February 2020 to 31% in June 2020. Venezuela’s first quarantine measures, which she conducted in March 2020, affected this. Saraiba told Reuters: “We have a complex humanitarian emergency at the top of the pandemic,” and “the combination of these factors is leading to deteriorating living conditions.”

Actions to address mental health in Venezuela

Although the state of mental health in Venezuela is still terrible, hope is on the horizon for those who need it. UNICEF and the United Nations have noted the struggles facing Venezuelans, especially as COVID-19 has exacerbated these issues.

One of the most significant sources of stress for children is unrest at home. UNICEF has been working intensively with the Venezuelan population to spread awareness of the increase in domestic violence since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, UNICEF is helping to support Venezuelan returnees and their families. UNICEF also appoints border advisers and assigns workers to help combat domestic disputes.

Venezuela’s United Nations humanitarian response plan for 2021 is aimed at 4.5 million Venezuelans in need. The plan aims to “provide life-saving emergency care, secure livelihoods by improving access to basic services and ensure the protection of the most vulnerable,” among other goals. Funding the plan will allow many who struggle with mental health in Venezuela to seek treatment. So far, in support of the plan, the international community has committed about $ 83 million to help Venezuelans who are struggling.

With the help of Venezuela from several organizations focusing on several aspects of well-being, including mental health, there is hope that mental health in Venezuela will improve.

– Kevin Leonard
Photo: Pixabay

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