Mental Health

Depression is one of the most prevalent problems and the leading cause of disability worldwide, with more than 300 million people diagnosed with this illness globally. In Chile, 6.2% of the population has been diagnosed with an advanced state of depression, with five times more women suffering from this condition than men, but of the total only 20% can access medical treatment. According to the Chilean Ministry of Health’s latest National Health Survey, 15.8% of the general population over the age of 18 reports having experienced depressive symptoms in the last year. Meanwhile, suicide is the second cause of death in Chilean youth aged 15-29, and the country is the second leading member of the OECD whose suicide rate has most increased over the last 15 years.

Sector observers have indicated that Chile presents high indicators of vulnerability in mental health yet precarious public policies; while depression for people over 15 years of age is covered under the government’s Explicit Health Guarantees (GES), there is no specific law addressing mental disorders, and public spending on mental health is only about 2.4% of the total health budget.

Given this phenomenon, looking to increase interaction in addressing the complexity and possible intervention of depression, the Santiago Center teamed up with Universidad Católica’s office of the Vice-Provost for Research and the Millennium Institute for Depression and Personality Research (MIDAP) - a scientific center comprised of psychologists, psychiatrists and related professionals who look to generate multidimensional understanding of depression - to launch the Mental Health Series, where renowned Columbia specialists in the areas of psychology and psychiatry traveled to Chile during 2019 and 2020 to dissertate on their areas of expertise, while also meeting with related organizations and government officials to advance further interaction and collaboration.

The first event, in July 2019, was led by Lena Verdeli, Director of the Global Mental Health Lab and Associate Professor, who presented on how the focus on community and building support in group psychotherapy may explain the much higher rates of response in treating depressed patients. The next serie in October 2019, was held by Madelyn Gould, Professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, who reviewed best practices regarding suicide hotlines and the role of “gatekeeper,” as well as the way media reports suicide cases can have a significant effect on adolescent suicide contagion or prevention. 

In December 2019, Pablo Goldberg, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Director of Youth Treatment and Evaluation of Anxiety and Mood (Y-TEAM) spoke about the importance of early-stage detection and treatment in helping adolescents to cope with the illness and prevent it from turning into a larger problem later in life. Finally, in January 2020, Otto Kernberg, Past-President of the International Psychoanalytic Association, and Training and Supervising Analyst of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, gave a master class on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with personality disorders.

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