Mental Health in Costa Rica
Having mental health issues in a country where it is seen as a weakness is not easy. Alienation from myths and taboos can be provoked while having depression, anxiety and other mental-emotional disorders in Costa Rica.
With every other kind of disease, a person is culturally allowed to talk about what they’re going through, ask for help, and have support people around to assist with responsibilities… But, with mental diseases, more often than usual, there’s only loneliness for the ones suffering it.
There’s a lot of shame about being neurodivergent or having mental health conditions in Costa Rica. Everybody should be able to have access to doctors and medicines while in sickness but the reality for the population with depression and anxiety is that they enter into an inefficient system, receiving the bare minimum care by the public insurance that, otherwise, for any other chronic illness, provide the best health attention available. This is the turning point where receiving mental health assistance becomes a luxury in the country because private therapy, medicines and psychiatrists are expensive and not within reach for the majority of ticos that are in pain. Costa Rica has an increasing crisis of suicides that politicians and the press are not talking about it because it is not lucrative. While people are battling between life and death, they are being denied their basic human rights.
Since Covid-19 pandemic started in 2020, mental health in Costa Rica keeps decreasing because of economic and isolation consequences. Symptoms like loss of appetite and/or sleep, irritability, stress, fear, anxiety, physical health wear, among others are on the rise.
In 2020, public insurance attended 5070 new patients of depression and in 2021, there were 3884 new patients. Meanwhile, during the pandemic 1.3 million of people (⅕ of population in Costa Rica) were affected mentally and emotionally by the pandemic.
In 2022, children and teenagers came back to schools after 2 years of studying virtually. Teachers and counselors are now able to watch violent behaviors triggered by mental and emotional neglect while they weren’t being socialized correctly. It was tough for grown ups too because socialization was restricted for them as well. After long days of working and studying, government restrictions did not allow any kind of extra activities.
Associations of professionals in mental health are making efforts to get the government to invest resources into improving the conditions for their patients to achieve real holistic health and to stop the impact in metrics like disabilities and premature death metrics in Costa Rica. Public universities provide free mental healthcare for their students. The public insurance (CCSS) has proven to be insufficient even if they have mental health professionals hired, they are not enough to be able to attend all the people with problems. But what is really needed are politics focused on to promote and prevent the attention of the mental diseases with communities, families, workplaces, schools and more so the people can be accompanied through all their life stages.